West Nile threat increases

Allen County isn’t the lone community reporting signs of West Nile activity this summer.

Hamilton, Marion and Montgomery counties all have had mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus, the Indiana State Department of Health reported Friday.

Tthis week, a sample of mosquitoes collected in the 1800 block of Laverne Avenue tested positive for the virus. On Monday, crews with the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health sprayed in a half-mile radius of the test site.

Last year, mosquitoes tested positive for the virus in 24 Indiana counties, and state health officials expect to add more counties to the list this summer.

“As soon as we start detecting West Nile virus in mosquitoes, we know people are at greater risk for infection,” said Jennifer House, a veterinary epidemiologist with the state health department.

Mosquitoes transmit the virus to humans, who may show symptoms three to 15 days after the bite. Mild forms of the illness can cause fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands or a rash. But some people may develop more severe cases causing encephalitis, meningitis or death.

People 50 and older are at most risk for serious illness or death from the virus. Since 2002, more than 20 Indiana residents have died from the virus, the health department said.

Health officials encourage residents to avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn; use insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin or oil of eucalyptus; and wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors.

To eliminate mosquito-breeding grounds, property owners should dispose of old tires, pots or other containers that could hold water; repair failing septic systems; keep grass and shrubs trimmed; clean clogged gutters; flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths; aerate ponds and keep them stocked with mosquito-eating fish.

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