Although fall is near, a summer pest still lingers and is causing some health concerns across Indiana.
Last month, the Miami County Health Department reported a pool of mosquitoes collected Aug. 13 tested positive for West Nile virus.
This is the first reported case of West Nile virus activity in 2010 for the county, and state health officials said in previous years, most human cases of West Nile were reported between mid-July and mid-September.
The virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes that have bitten an infected bird. After being bitten, humans can start showing symptoms within three days.
“We are telling people to be smart, be safe and be certain,” said Rich Mogfield, with the county’s heath department.
Mogfield said that in only a small number of cases has the virus been transmitted through human-to-human contact such as blood transplants or breast feeding. There are no cases of transmission via casual contact, he said.
“Be smart when you are outdoors between dusk and dawn. Those are peak times for mosquitoes. When you are outdoors, be safe and use a repellent that has DEET. Be certain there is no standing water on your property. When you see standing water, please call and report it.”
According to the Indian State Department of Health, Culex mosquitoes carry the virus and breed in shaded places near standing water. In urban areas, the mosquitoes breed in sewer catch basins.
The West Nile virus was first identified in Indiana in 2001, and in its most recent study — ending in 2005 — the ISDH said there have been 378 cases resulting in 16 deaths.
Furthermore, health officials report that although individuals over the age of 50 are at greatest risk from the virus, people of all ages have been infected.
Nevertheless, the ISDH reports 87 percent of the state’s reported West Nile cases have been to individuals 40 years old and older.
Typically, once bitten, the virus results in a mild illness known as West Nile fever, which can cause fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands or a rash.
However, a small number of individuals can develop a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other neurological syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis.
Currently, there is no vaccine or detailed medical treatment for people infected with the virus.
To further protect against mosquito bites, Mogfield recommends residents wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when they are outdoors in areas where mosquitoes are biting.
The health department is also asking residents to take steps to rid their properties of potential mosquito breeding grounds.
“We’ve had the virus here before, but it’s a sporadic deal,” said Mogfield. “But we want to keep this under control and we are asking residents to clear their property of any standing water. That will help a lot.”
• K.O. Jackson is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He can be reached at 765-854-6739 or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org