By Jessie Hellmann Kokomo Tribune
---- — The first signs of West Nile virus have been discovered in Adams County earlier in the year than usual, according to the state Department of Health.
Senior Medical Entomologist Bryan Price said Indiana's first human case of the virus appeared in 2002, with cases reported every year since, usually making an appearance in July.
“[Earliness] in no way is an indicator that we’re going to have a bad year," Price said. "That’s to be determined on weather patterns here on out.”
In 2012, every county except Crawford, in southern Indiana, had mosquitoes test positive for the virus, causing eight Indiana deaths, the third highest since 2002. That year, the virus killed 64 people.
Price said the virus tends to be more severe during droughts and periods of hot weather.
“The amount of the virus varies from year to year,” Price said. “When the weather is hot, the virus does very well.”
Price said the mosquitoes that carry the virus breed in stagnate water, which often occurs during droughts.
“Frequent rainfalls are good because they can flush out things like storm sewers in cities and keep the water moving and get rid of the water breeding spots,” Price said.
Price said it’s important for people to take precautionary measures to avoid the virus, such as staying inside from dusk to dawn, or wearing long sleeves and insect repellent containing DEET.
In 2012, 77 cases of West Nile virus were reported in humans in Indiana, jumping from nine the previous year.
There were no human cases of the virus reported in Howard County in 2012, although mosquitoes in the area tested positive for it.
The state health department has a West Nile virus surveillance program, which involves staff regularly testing mosquitoes from all over the state. If any areas test positive for the virus, people will be made aware.
Price said 80 percent of those infected will experience no symptoms, but those who do may have high fever, muscle aches, confusion and tremors. If the virus progresses into its severest form, neuro-invasive disease, it could cause neurological complications that can lead to death.
"Regardless of how bad the year may be, if people take the precautionary steps, they're going to be doing all they can for themselves and they can go ahead and enjoy the summer," he said.
Tips for ridding property of mosquito breeding grounds: • Clean clogged roof gutters • Flush out bird baths and ornamental fountains once a week • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of home • Discard old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or any other containers that can hold water • Repair failed septic systems • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors • Keep grass cut short • Aerate ornamental pools or stock with predatory fish