TERRE HAUTE —
The topic of West Nile virus dominated much of the discussion during Wednesday’s meeting of the Vigo County Board of Health.
The health department has investigated one human case of West Nile virus, officials said.
As of Wednesday, the state was reporting 20 human cases of West Nile virus as well as one death attributed to it. State and local health officials say they can’t confirm where the death occurred because of privacy laws.
But Michael Eldred, a member of the board of health, asked about a recent death in Vigo County attributed to “complications from West Nile virus.”
That information was recently published in a newspaper obituary.
Eldred asked if the health department publicizes symptoms.
Mike Grayless, vector control specialist, and health department administrator Joni Wise, outlined the health department’s efforts to educate the public through the media.
That happens as soon as Vigo County has its first pool of mosquitoes test positive for WNV, Grayless said.
The two biggest things citizens can do are to eliminate standing water on their property and to use insect repellent with DEET when they are outside.
Eldred asked if the disease is curable if caught in time. Darren Brucken, the new county health officer, explained there is no treatment for severe cases of West Nile virus infection, but supportive care can be given to people with severe illness, such as encephalitis.
Board member Dora Abel asked if residents in a certain area are notified if a pool of insects from that area tests positive.
Grayless said what’s important is to let the public know that “it’s in our county. If it’s in my backyard, it’s going to be in your backyard.”
Birds carry the disease. Mosquitoes that bite the birds and become infected then, in turn, can transmit West Nile virus to people.
Wise told the board that Vigo County “has probably the most progressive vector control mosquito program in the state.”
Various aspects include adulticiding or spraying; a tire amnesty program and a tire storage ordinance that has been successful. School children learn about West Nile through coloring books, and the department works with media to educate the public, she said.
Grayless reported that Vigo County has had 32 pools of mosquitoes test positive for West Nile, “the most we’ve ever had.” The county sent in 158 batches or pools of mosquitoes for testing.
Statewide, there have been 474 pools of mosquitoes test positive for WNV from 87 counties.
Grayless said weather conditions this year have been “perfect” for the Culex mosquitoes to breed; Culex mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus.
There wasn’t a lot of rain, but when rain did fall, pools of standing water became stagnant, which is were the breeding occurs.
The goods news for residents is that colder weather — 50 to 55 degrees — means mosquitoes are becoming dormant, Grayless said after the meeting. The first hard freeze will kill most of them.
Wise urges residents to continue taking precautions until that first freeze.
In other matters, the health department:
n Has a new health educator/media contact, Constance Cowling.
n Has a disease intervention specialist, Jen Molica. Her position is funded through a shared grant with the Monroe County Health Department. She follows up with patients who test positive for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and makes sure they are adequately taken care of through treatment and other services.
She goes to several sites and also works with counties contiguous to Vigo.
n Also, the Board of Health has two new members, Brian Garcia and Dr. Jim Turner.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.