Rare mosquito virus found in northern Indiana

Symptoms of EEE virus include chills, fever, body aches and joint pain. People who are younger than 15 years and older than 50 years are at the greatest risk.

State health officials say a rare mosquito virus has been found in northern Indiana.

Officials are urging Indiana residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites in response to the detection of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus, according to a news release.

Since mid-August of this year, three horses and one group of mosquitoes from Elkhart County have tested positive for EEE virus. No human cases of EEE virus disease have been reported in Indiana in 2019. However, three human cases have been reported in southwest Michigan this year, one of which was fatal.

“EEE, or triple-E, virus is rare but extremely serious. It can cause long-term complications and even death,” said Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H., state public health veterinarian at the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH).

State health officials recommend several preventive measures including avoiding the outdoors when mosquitoes are active; using an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on clothes and exposed skin; covering exposed skin by wearing a hat, long sleeves and long pants in places where mosquitoes are especially active, such as wooded areas and installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

“You can protect yourself from EEE virus and other viruses by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites whenever you spend time outdoors,” Brown said. “You can also reduce the risk for yourself and your neighbors by eliminating mosquito breeding sites from your property.”

Officials say you can eliminate mosquito breeding sites from your property by discarding old tires, tin and aluminum cans, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water; repairing failed septic systems; drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors; keeping grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed; cleaning clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains; frequently replacing the water in pet bowls; flushing ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically and aerating ornamental pools or stocking them with predatory fish.

Most people who are infected with the virus never develop any serious symptoms. But in a small percentage of people, it manages to reach the nervous system, where it causes the inflammation of the brain that gives the virus its name. This form of the disease is especially deadly, with a 33 percent fatality rate. There are currently no specialized treatments for EEE, nor a preventive human vaccine.

Many people who recover may still experience long-term complications. Symptoms of EEE virus include chills, fever, body aches and joint pain. People who are younger than 15 years and older than 50 years are at the greatest risk of severe disease if infected with EEE virus. People who think they may have EEE virus disease should see a healthcare provider.

Serious cases of EEE are rare, with the U.S. reporting an average of seven cases annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials warn that peak transmission season for EEE will continue into September. As the warming climate makes life more hospitable to mosquitoes, it’s almost certain that EEE and other mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile will become more common throughout the year.

To see the latest results of ISDH’s mosquito surveillance program, go to https://gis.in.gov/apps/ISDH/Arbo/. To learn more about EEE virus, visit the ISDH website at https://www.in.gov/isdh/28258.htm.

Reach Quentin Blount at quentin.blount@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130. Twitter: @quentinblount

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