Mosquito-borne virus hasn’t been found in county


Although a human case of Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, was found in Indiana recently, local health officials say the public should not be overly worried about getting the rare virus.

“EEE is extremely rare, and we haven’t seen any in Dubois County,” said Shawn Werner, environmental health specialist at the Dubois County Health Department.

A person in Elkhart County died from the virus, which is transmitted through mosquitoes. It is the first human case of the virus in Indiana since 1998, and only the fourth reported since 1964. EEE has been found in more than a dozen horses and one mosquito sample in northern Indiana this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says approximately 5 to 10 human cases of EEE are reported nationwide each year, typically from late spring through early fall.

“You probably have a better chance of getting struck by lightning,” Werner said.

With the immense amount of rain that fell in the Dubois County area in June and July, the eggs that mosquitoes laid were constantly washed away. The best areas for mosquitoes to reproduce is in areas with standing water.

“We were getting rains every two or three days. It takes a minimum of five to six days to reproduce from eggs to adults,” Werner said. “A lot of those pockets of standing water were getting washed away and flushed out by the heavy rains, and they just couldn’t reproduce. So this year, mosquito disease transmission and mosquito biting are actually down.”

The rainy months were followed by extremely dry months.

“It never really rained. In September, I don’t think we hardly even had more than one measurable rain,” Werner said. “It just went from super wet to super dry.

“We didn’t have much of a disease transmission because there wasn’t much of a population out there.”

What did produce is other flying insects, like black flies and biting midges. “Typically you see those in a wet spring and dry fall,” Werner said. “So that’s why you’re seeing those.”

Just because the mosquito population wasn’t heavy this year doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. And as temperatures fluctuate between the 60s, 70s and some 80s, some mosquitoes will come out to feast.

“When you start getting up in the 70-, 80-degree days, sometimes right before dusk, you can start getting some activity again,” Werner said. “You still need to be vigilant in wearing your mosquito repellant and staying away from areas in which you’re prone to get bit.”

Although mosquito activity decreases with cooler temperatures, the risk of mosquito-borne diseases will not be eliminated until the first hard freeze occurs, Indiana State Department of Health officials said.

People still need to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites:

• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active, especially late afternoon, dusk to dawn and early morning.

• Use an Evironmental-Protection-Agency-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.

Hoosiers also are encouraged to eliminate mosquito breeding sites 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.

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