News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 26, 2013

Health Dept. finds West Nile in Vigo County

Four pools test positive for insect-born illness

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Four mosquito pools in Vigo County have tested positive for the West Nile Virus, the first sign of the virus in the area this year, the Vigo County Health Department confirmed Thursday.

But Vigo County is actually only one of 12 Indiana counties with mosquito pools testing positive. Other counties include Knox, Montgomery, Clinton and Hamilton.

Statewide, 21 mosquito pools tested positive for the virus, with Vigo County having the highest number of positive pools as of Thursday, according to the Indiana State Department of Health, the agency that also usually does the testing.

 Ken Severson, spokesperson for the Indiana State Department of Health, said that unfortunately, these results are common around this time of the year.

“West Nile tends to thrive in hot weather,” he said.

And after the rain the Wabash Valley received in recent weeks, many items –– bird baths, empty flower pots, tires –– can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

A bite from an infected mosquito can make a person sick.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile Virus is an arthropod-borne virus (arbovirus) commonly spread to humans by infected mosquitoes.

 First detected in North America in 1999, “West Nile virus can cause febrile illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord),” according to the CDC. Mosquitoes usually get the virus from infected birds.

There are no known medications or vaccines to treat and prevent a West Nile infection.

The CDC reports that most people infected with the virus will have no symptoms at all. About one in five infected people will develop fever and other symptoms. Less than 1 percent of those infected actually develop a serious or fatal neurologic illness, according to the CDC.

On Wednesday, health department officials reported Indiana’s first case of human West Nile Virus this year. The case occurred in Ripley County, about 40 miles west of Cincinnati.

But 2012 saw an “unusually high activity” for West Nile cases, Severson said.

Last year, eight deaths and 77 human West Nile cases were reported, the third-highest human case numbers since the first known West Nile activity in 2002, Severson said.

That year also saw the highest number of reported human cases in the state, he said.

Many counties, including Vigo, are spraying against mosquitoes.

But the Vigo County Health Department reminds residents to take steps to take care of themselves and their property to avoid getting infected and to help eliminate “ideal breeding ground” for mosquitoes.

“The main thing,” said Sydney Elliott, health educator at the Vigo County Health Department, is for people to “check your property.”

She said residents need to check for items that can hold water, such as empty flower pots, tires, wading pools, bird baths and dog dishes. These items need to be regularly cleaned. If left for more than a day, they can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Eliminating these breeding grounds will help in containing the problem.

It is also important to inspect and clean rain gutters and make sure windows and door screens have no holes that can be an entryway for mosquitoes into people’s homes.

Elliott also said that “mosquitoes are more prevalent” between dusk and dawn, so people who go outdoors during those times should be extra careful.

Officials advise that before going outside, people should apply an insect repellent containing DEET and to wear long-sleeved shirts.

“Enjoy the outdoors, but just be cautious of mosquitoes that bite,” Severson said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or