As the drought continues its stranglehold on Indiana and Putnam County, the threat of West Nile virus appears ever increasing locally.
A third pool of mosquitoes within a week has tested positive for the West Nile virus, according to Darrell Brackney, environmental health specialist for the Putnam County Health Department.
Brackney told the Banner Graphic that a mosquito trap set up near the City of Greencastle wastewater treatment plant west of town off West Columbia Street, has tested positive.
"The state sets a trap out there," he said, "and every year it seems we get one (positive test)."
Last week, the virus was detected in mosquitoes found in a collection area, or pool, monitored by the State Board of Health near the intersection of Veterans Highway and Bloomington Street.
Another site testing positive is monitored at the southwest corner of the Edgelea Subdivision where the County Board of Health traps mosquitoes.
"I think there have been 80 positive pools reported in Indiana," Brackney noted, "and eight of those have been in Putnam County."
That means 10 percent of all positive tests this summer have come from Putnam County, or more specifically, the Greencastle area.
At eight confirmed positive results, the county has reported the second-highest number of positive samplings in the state, behind only Marion County, the Department of Health reports.
Besides Putnam, area counties Clay (1), Parke (3), Vigo (1) and Vermillion (1) all have had positive-test mosquito samplings.
Overall, more than 30 Indiana counties have reported positive tests for West Nile this season.
"People think that the way it's dried up, there aren't as many mosquitoes," Brackney said, "but the ones out there are apparently carrying the West Nile virus."
The good news, Brackney said, is that no human cases of West Nile virus have yet been reported.
He again urged local residents to take precautions like using mosquito repellant, avoiding going out at dusk or later, and emptying bird baths, old tires, cleaning gutters or anything else that tends to catch water and allow it to stagnate.
"Try to eliminate any possible havens for mosquitoes," he stressed.
Also, dress to prevent any contact with the biting pests.
"I know it's hot," Brackney allowed, "but a word to the wise: If you're going to be out at dusk or later, you should wear long sleeves and long pants."
Once the virus has been detected in mosquitoes, people are at greater risk for infection, state officials said. West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes that have first bitten an infected bird.
Someone bitten by an infected mosquito may develop symptoms within three to 15 days after getting bitten.
Indiana encountered its first human case of West Nile virus in 2002, and since then, more than 20 Hoosiers have died from the illness, including one person last year.
Approximately 80 percent of people infected with the virus do not experience significant symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
However, about 20 percent will experience symptoms such as headache, body aches, fever, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms may last from several days to several weeks.
About one in 150 people infected with the virus will develop especially severe illness that may include disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Such symptoms may last several weeks, and some neurological effects may be permanent.
For more information, persons may call the Putnam County Health Department at 658-2782
To find out more about the West Nile virus, the Indiana Department of Health's web page on the topic is: http://www.in.gov/isdh/23592.htm.