RENSSELAER — West Nile virus activity has been detected in Jasper County.
Jasper County Health Department officials were notified Tuesday afternoon after the Indiana State Department of Health identified a positive test for the virus in a sampling of mosquitoes. It is not known when or where in the county the sample was collected.
West Nile virus is commonly spread to people, horses and other mammals by the bite of an infected mosquito. Once infected, people and animals are “dead-end hosts,” meaning that they do not pass the virus on to other mosquitoes. The virus can be transmitted by blood transfusions, but all blood donations in the United States are screened for the virus.
According to Debra Nagel, registered nurse for the Jasper County Health Department, 80 percent of people infected with West Nile do not develop any symptoms, while the other 20 percent may develop a fever and other symptoms.
She said symptoms might include headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Symptoms usually appear within two to 14 days of a bite from an infected mosquito.
“Most people with this type of West Nile recover completely, but some can have persistent fatigue and weakness,” she said. “Less than one percent develop severe illness affecting the nervous system.”
Severe forms of West Nile illness include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord) or paralysis.
Diagnosis of West Nile is based on symptoms and laboratory testing.
“If you think that you have West Nile, contact your health care provider,” she said. “There is no specific medication to treat it, just supportive care.”
Nagle said prevention is the most effective way to prevent infection. She suggests:
- Avoiding the outdoors when mosquitoes are active (especially late afternoon, dusk to dawn and early morning).
- Using insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone on clothing and exposed skin.
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats when outdoors.
- Using screens on windows and doors. Repair holes in screens to keep mosquitoes out.
- Using mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure.
Culex mosquitoes, which carry West Nile, breed in ditches, open septic systems, discarded tires and unused wading pools. Even a small bucket with stagnant water can be home to up to 1,000 mosquitoes, the health department stated.
Take steps to eliminate mosquitoes outdoors by:
- Eliminating standing water on or near your property.
- Repairing failed septic systems.
- Keeping grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed.
- Disposing of old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, or other unused containers.
- Turning over plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows, and birdbaths to prevent stagnant water.
Jasper County Health Department officials said they have a limited supply of mosquito repellent pellets that can be placed at the edge of standing water to kill mosquito larvae before they are old enough to bite. This is provided to Jasper County residents only at no cost while supplies last.
For more information or questions, contact Nagel at 219-866-4621 or visit the Indiana State Department of Health Web site at www.statehealth.IN.gov.