Health officials warn of West Nile Virus

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The Switzerland County Health Department, in conjunction with Indiana State Department of Health officials, is urging Switzerland County residents to take steps to protect themselves from West Nile Virus, which is transmitted through mosquito bites.

Recent hot weather here and throughout the state has caused an increase in the number of Culex mosquitoes, which carry the West Nile Virus.

Dr. James Howell of the Indiana State Department of Health says that those mosquitoes can breed very quickly in containers or in stagnant water during times of high temperatures.

Residents should try and do away with stagnant pools of water, buckets of water, and make sure that bird bath water is changed on a regular basis.

After 80 confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in Indiana last year, including five deaths, so far this year there have not been any reported cases in either humans or in birds; but mosquito pools in four Indiana counties: Delaware (Muncie), Lake (Gary), Marion (Indianapolis), and Vanderburgh (Evansville); were found to be positive for the virus.

“Late July, August, and September have been the months that most human West Nile Virus cases occur,” Dr. Howell said. “We will continue to see cases until evening temperatures are below 50 degrees and we have a hard frost.”

Although people over age 50 are at greatest risk for serious illness and even death with West Nile Virus, people of all ages have been infected with the virus and have had severe illness.

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Switzerland County Health Department officials recommend that residents take the following precautions when they are outdoors:

– Avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito biting times, which are from dusk until dawn, when possible.

– Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin.

– Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

– Be aware of potential mosquito breeding grounds on your property and remove them.

– Repair failed septic systems.

– Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors.

– Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed.

– Dispose of old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or other unused containers that can hold water.

– Every week empty and clean any containers used to hold water.

– Cleans clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains.

– Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish.

– For more information, contact the Switzerland County Health Department at 427-3220.