Mosquitoes in Marshall County test positive for West Nile virus - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Mosquitoes in Marshall County test positive for West Nile virus

Posted:
MARSHALL COUNTY - UPDATE: West Nile season has officially come to Indiana. Earlier today, the state health department confirmed positive tests. Officials found mosquitoes carrying West Nile in Marshall and Pike counties.

"When I was growing up, we thought of mosquitos as pretty much harmless," said Dr. Daniel Nafziger of Elkhart County Health Department. "Mosquitoes were just things that just left you with an itchy spot on your skin.  I think those days are gone."

Nafzinger says most people won't infected with West Nile will never know. But others, especially those above age 50 and with weak immune systems, will develop more severe reactions including meningitis, brain damage, paralysis and even death.

"We're going to increasingly see diseases transmitted by mosquitos," said Nafzinger.

The CDC already attributed one human death in the U.S. to West Nile in 2014. It's late in the year for the virus to show up, but experts say don't be fooled. The two mosquito pools that just tested positive in Indiana... will likely be just the beginning.

Experts are expecting an unusually active West Nile season this year, and that's thanks to all of the rain we've been seeing so far this summer.

"The virus will catch up," said David Severson, director of the Eck Institute for Global Health at the University of Notre Dame. His team conducts research on why mosquitos make such effective hosts for viruses like West Nile. "We'll likely be seeing a lot more positive pools and unfortunately probably some infected human cases."

Of course -- the best way to avoid contracting a severe West Nile reaction is to avoid getting bitten. That means avoiding the outdoors after dusk and wearing bug spray.

"It's time to stop thinking of mosquito bites as harmless and make a more serious effort in trying to prevent those bites," said Nafziger. Another important tip: check your home and backyard for potential mosquito breeding grounds. For example, throw out old tires and ceramic pots that can hold water.

While the Dept. of Health says there have been no reported cases of West Nile virus in humans so far, and there's no way to tell yet how severe this season will be at this point, the presence of the virus is a reminder to take precautions against mosquito bites, which can carry other viruses as well. Officials are encouraging people to use window and door screens, and wear insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or lemon eucalyptus oil.

Officials remind that most people who become infected with West Nile virus will not develop symptoms, and most of those who do will have a milder form of the illness, with possible symptoms of headache, fever, body aches, swollen lymph glands or rash. People over 50 are most at risk for more severe symptoms which can include encephalitis, meningitis or muscle paralysis. Death is rare, but a possible result of infection. Symptoms usually appear 3 to 15 days after being bitten.

For more information, visit the Indiana State Department of Health's website.
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