State health officials have announced the state’s first death this year due to West Nile virus. While seven human cases total have been reported so far in 2012, this is the first death this year, emphasizing the fact that this mosquito-borne virus isn’t just a risk for those spending time in wooded areas, fishing, or camping. The majority of people who become infected commonly do so while spending time around the outside of the home, working in the garden, mowing the lawn, or simply sitting on the porch.
State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin says that because the virus is carried and transmitted by mosquitoes, everyone is susceptible to it. He says the tragic death serves as a reminder of just how important it is to take steps to protect ourselves from mosquitoes by using screens on doors and windows, wearing insect repellent, covering up with long jeans and shirts, and by eliminating areas the bugs may use as breeding grounds.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in Fulton, Hamilton, Jackson, Monroe, Marion, and Venderburgh counties.
West Nile virus usually causes West Nile fever, a milder form of the illness, which can include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands or a rash. Some individuals will develop a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other severe syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis.
To reduce potential mosquito breeding grounds, 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; and frequently replace water in birdbaths and other containers that hold standing water.
There is no vaccine and no cure for West Nile virus, Saint Louis encephalitis or Eastern equine encephalitis for humans. Individuals who think they may have West Nile virus should see their healthcare provider.