Health officials: Rare mosquito virus found in northern Indiana

State health officials are urging Indiana residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites in response to the detection of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus activity in northern Indiana.

Posted: Sep 12, 2019 10:46 AM
Updated: Sep 12, 2019 12:18 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) — State health officials are urging Indiana residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites in response to the detection of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus activity in northern Indiana.

Since mid-August of this year, three horses and one group of mosquitoes from Elkhart County have tested positive for EEE virus. No human cases of EEE virus disease have been reported in Indiana in 2019; however, three human cases have been reported in southwest Michigan this year, one of which was fatal.

“EEE, or triple-E, virus is rare but extremely serious. It can cause long-term complications and even death,” said Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H., state public health veterinarian at the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). “You can protect yourself from EEE virus and other viruses by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites whenever you spend time outdoors. You can also reduce the risk for yourself and your neighbors by eliminating mosquito breeding sites from your property.”

State health officials recommend the following preventive measures:

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active (especially late afternoon, dusk to dawn and early morning)
  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on clothes and exposed skin
  • Cover exposed skin by wearing a hat, long sleeves and long pants in places where mosquitoes are especially active, such as wooded areas
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home

You can eliminate mosquito breeding sites from your property by doing the following:

  • Discard old tires, tin/aluminum cans, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water
  • Repair failed septic systems
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors
  • Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed
  • Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains
  • Frequently replace the water in pet bowls
  • Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with predatory fish

While rare, EEE virus can cause serious illness and has a fatality rate of about 33 percent in people. Many people who recover may still experience long-term complications. Symptoms of EEE virus disease include chills, fever, body aches and joint pain. Some people develop a more severe form of the disease that affects the nervous system and causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). People who are younger than 15 years and older than 50 years are at the greatest risk of severe disease if infected with EEE virus. People who think they may have EEE virus disease should see a healthcare provider.

To see the latest results of ISDH’s mosquito surveillance program, go to https://gis.in.gov/apps/ISDH/Arbo/. To learn more about EEE virus, visit the ISDH website at https://www.in.gov/isdh/28258.htm.

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