It has been reported that mosquitoes found in Elkhart County have tested positive for West Nile virus. The Elkhart County Health Department made a public announcement regarding the issue on June 28th. The county will continue to collect and test mosquitoes throughout the summer until September. Residents in the area are advised to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites in order to minimize the risk of infection.
The first case of West Nile virus was identified in the West Nile District of Uganda in 1937. The majority of infections in humans present with few or no signs or symptoms, however, in some individuals infection can result in West Nile fever. In 1% of cases, the West Nile virus causes neurological disease affecting the central nervous system. Such cases are on the severe end of the spectrum and are much more rare. Common symptoms of West Nile fever can include headaches, nausea, muscle soreness or aches, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, or rash. Children, elderly individuals, and those with immunodeficiencies are most susceptible to these symptoms.
It is important for residents to take an active role in keeping the community as well as their families safe. Remove any standing water on your property where mosquitoes can breed. Check your windows and screens to ensure that they are secure and intact to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home. When going out, especially into wooded areas or in the evenings, remember to apply insect repellent to your skin and clothing. Concentrations above 15 DEET are not recommended for children. Residents may also consider purchasing mosquito coils or citronella candles or torches to keep the area free of mosquitoes during BBQs, picnics, or other outdoor get-togethers during the evening or at night.
Blood borne illnesses and infections can be spread by mosquitoes. Whether it is the West Nile virus or malaria, residents should always take care when going out during the summertime to avoid mosquito bites. In addition to unpleasant itching and swelling, mosquito bites can carry other risks to human health as well.
The county often takes measures to reduce the mosquito population during the summer. You can do your part by keeping your property clean and making sure there is no standing water around your home. Do not forget to check your gutters for clogs or other issues that may hinder the flow and disposal of runoff and rain water. Ponds, fountains, and bird baths are other areas where mosquitoes may breed. These water features should be maintained regularly.
Mosquitoes pose a health risk for residents all across the U.S. Stay alert for public announcements and news regarding outbreaks or suspected cases of infections. In recent years, there has been major concerns about the Zika virus, West Nile virus, and several other viruses carried by mosquitoes. To find out if there is currently a risk of infection in your area, please contact your local or state health department for more information.