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State health officials urge caution after mosquito-borne EEE virus found in northern Indiana

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Posted at 2:10 PM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 14:11:01-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A rare and dangerous mosquito-borne illness has been detected in northern Indiana, state health officials announced Tuesday.

A person in LaPorte County is believed to have contracted Eastern equine encephalitis and the virus has been detected in two horses in LaGrange County and another horse in Kosciusko County, according to the Indiana State Department of Health, which added that all northern Indiana residents should take precautions.

“Eastern equine encephalitis virus disease is rare in humans but can cause permanent complications and even death,” Indiana State Health Commissioner Kris Box said in a news release. “While all Hoosiers are at risk for mosquito-borne diseases, northern Indiana residents need to be especially vigilant right now.”

Northern Indiana experienced an outbreak of EEE virus in 2019 with one person dying, 14 horses diagnosed and one positive mosquito sample recovered.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 of the 38 people who contracted EEE virus in 2019 died. Many people who recover experience long-term complications.

Symptoms of EEE virus include chills, fever, body aches and joint pain. Some people develop a more serious form of the disease that affects the nervous system and causes encephalitis. People who are younger than 15 and older than 50 are at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill, according to ISDH.

State health officials recommended people take the following steps to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active (especially late afternoon, dusk to dawn, and early morning).
  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or 2-undecanone on clothes and exposed skin.
  • Cover exposed skin by wearing a hat, long sleeves and long pants in places where mosquitoes are especially active, such as wooded areas.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

Mosquito breeding sites can be eliminated by doing the following:

  • Discard old tires, tin cans, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water.
  • Repair failed septic systems.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors.
  • Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed.
  • Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains.
  • Frequently replace the water in pet bowls.
  • Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically.
  • Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish.