GOSHEN — High temperatures and recent rainfail have resulted in perfect conditions for mosquitoes, leading to what the Elkhart County Health Department is calling an early discovery in Elkhart County of insects carrying the sometimes-fatal West Nile virus.
“It is possible that the virus is present in other areas of the county and could be detected soon,” a release from the Health Department said. “Due to the early appearance of West Nile, precautions should be taken to protect you and your family from mosquitoes.”
There are no vaccines or medical treatments for West Nile Virus, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One in five of those infected develop a fever and other symptoms, and one in 150 develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.
Data from the CDC shows that two people were diagnosed with West Nile virus in Elkhart County in both 2017 and 2018.
Before then, no person in the county had been diagnosed with the disease since 2013.
In 2018, humans were infected in all 48 contiguous states except New Hampshire, and the Midwest saw a particularly high number of cases.
The CDC reported 34 cases in Indiana last year, four of them fatal.
Nationally, 2,544 were diagnosed with West Nile virus in 2018, and 137 died from the disease.
As of Thursday, the northernmost county where a human being has been impacted by West Nile this year is Grant County, Oklahoma, on the border with Kansas, but Health Department officials are concerned that the early detection of the disease in mosquitoes in southern Elkhart County this year could increase the risk of the virus being transmitted to humans.
Symptoms of severe illness include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis, according to the CDC. Symptoms of a less severe illness include headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea and rash. Most people with the latter type of West Nile disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
The Health Department shares the following advice:
n Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active.
n Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent.
n Cover exposed skin by wearing a hat, long sleeves and long pants when in areas where mosquitoes are particularly active, such as wooded areas.
n Install or repair screens on windows and doors.
According to the Health Department, a container as small as a bottle cap can become a mosquito breeding ground. Therefore, it is recommended that residents take the following steps:
n Discard old tired, tin cans, ceramic pots and other containers that can hold water.
n Repair failed septic systems.
n Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors.
n Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed.
n Clean clogged roof gutters.
n Frequently replace water in pet bowls.
n Flush ornamental birdbaths periodically and aerate ornamental pools or stock them with predatory fish.
More information is available from the Elkhart County Health Department at 574-971-4600.
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