Health officials warn of rare virus in northern Indiana from mosquitoes

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WOWO) – Health officials in Indiana are urging residents to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites in the wake of a new virus that has been detected.

Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has been found in northern Indiana since mid-August.  In Elkhart County, three horses and a group of mosquitoes have tested positive for the EEE virus.  No human cases of EEE have been detected in Indiana at this time.  However, this year, three human cases have been reported in southwest Michigan with one of them being fatal.

Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H., state public health veterinarian at the Indiana State Department of Health said “EEE, or triple-E, is rare but extremely serious. It can cause long-term complications and even death.  You can protect yourself from EEE virus and other viruses by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites whenever you spend time outdoors. You can also reduce the risk for yourself and your neighbors by eliminating mosquito breeding sites from your property.”

The following preventative measures are recommended by state officials:

  • Try not to be outdoors when mosquitoes are active (late afternoon, dusk to dawn and early morning)
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on clothes and exposed skin
  • Wear a hat, long sleeves, and long pants to cover exposed skin
  • Install/repair screens on windows and doors

State health officials recommend ways to eliminate mosquito breeding sites from your property:

  • Throw out 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 that are left outside
  • Cut grass short and trim shrubbery
  • Clean out clogged gutters
  • Replace water in pet bowls frequently
  • Flush out fountains and birdbaths regularly
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with predatory fish

Even though EEE is rare, it can cause serious illness and has a fatality rate of about 33% in humans.  Several people who recover can still experience long-term complications.

Symptoms of EEE can include chills, fever, body aches and joint pain.  Some can develop a more severe form of the disease that affects the nervous system and cause encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain.  Those who are under 15-years-old and over 50-years-old, have the greatest risk of severe disease if infected with EEE.

Anyone who thinks they have EEE, should contact their local healthcare provider.

To see the latest results of the Indiana State Department of Health’s mosquito surveillance program, click here.

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