West Nile virus found in Greencastle mosquitoes

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Indiana State Department of Health has found the West Nile Virus in a pool of mosquitoes that was recently trapped in Greencastle.

Residents should not worry, health officials said, but are advised to take the necessary precautions.

Mosquitoes discovered in a pool of water next to the Greencastle wastewater treatment plant, located west of the city, have tested positive for the virus, Darrell Brackney of the Putnam County Health Department reported Wednesday.

However, Brackney said residents should not be alarmed. This is not the first time Greencastle has found the West Nile virus.

"They've tested positive all over the state," Brackney said. "It's a reminder to people to be careful."

Thus far, the virus is not known to have infected anyone locally.

The virus, which made its way to America in 1999, was first identified in the birds of Indiana in the summer of 2001. It did not spread to humans until the summer of 2002.

It is important to know that most people who get infected with the West Nile virus show little to no symptoms. However, symptoms may appear 3 to 15 days after being bitten. People over the age of 50 are also at higher risk for serious illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.

Serious symptoms of the virus include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, muscle weakness or paralysis, nausea, vomiting, sore joints and confusion. People with any of the above symptoms are advised to see a doctor immediately.

"Health officials report that the virus is not only present, but is widespread throughout Indiana," an Indiana State Department of Health spokesman said. "Even in areas where West Nile virus is actively transmitted, very few mosquitoes are infected, usually less than one in 500."

Brackney advises people to take precautions such as wearing bug spray, long pants and long-sleeve shirts, as well as eliminating standing water in things such as birdbaths.

Residents also are advised to keep an eye out and try to avoid exposure to mosquitoes whenever possible. Mosquitoes are known to be the most active from dusk until dawn.

The Indiana Department of Health also advises making sure all windows and doors have screens, disposing of all unused containers, pots and cans that could have standing water, as well as cleaning clogged roof gutters which are known to produce millions of mosquitoes each season.

"We are almost to the end of it," Brackney said. "We just have to wait for the first hard freeze."

However, the virus can survive in the winter due to the hibernating mosquitoes and the mosquito eggs. Therefore, there is always a risk that West Nile virus cases will be present each summer.

Although, the virus has been confirmed in Greencastle, there is no reason for residents to panic. Taking the necessary safety precautions should help avoid the risk of infection, officials stress.

For safety tips and more visit www.in.gov/isdh/23599.htm.

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