Bartholomew County has its first reported case of West Nile virus, Columbus Regional Hospital officials said.
The patient is an employee of a Columbus-based public agency whose supervisor reported the diagnosis during a public meeting this week.
When confirmed by state health officials, the local case would bring Indiana’s count to four cases so far this year.
Other cases have been reported in St. Joseph County near South Bend, Huntington County near Fort Wayne and in Madison County near Anderson.
The Indiana State Department of Health has said mosquitoes in at least 27 Indiana counties have tested positive for the virus so far this year.
As of Wednesday, neither Bartholomew County nor Brown County was among the counties with mosquitoes that tested positive for the virus, said Ken Severson, state health department spokesman.
The Bartholomew County Health Department had not been notified of the West Nile case as of Wednesday, said Link Fulp, assistant director for environmental health.
As part of the local inquiry, local health officials would need to speak with the patient to determine if the individual had traveled recently and could have contracted the virus elsewhere, he said.
State health officials are warning residents to avoid the outdoors when mosquitoes are active from late afternoon to dawn and are asking them to use insect repellent on exposed skin.
They also advise residents to install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
The virus can be so mild that some people don’t know they have contracted it, state health department officials said.
However, the virus can lead to severe illness, particularly for people 50 and older.
Complications may include seizures, memory loss and brain damage, and deaths have been reported from the virus.
The most effective way to avoid West Nile virus disease is to prevent mosquito bites.
- Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. To optimize safety and effectiveness, repellents should be used according to the label instructions.
- When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection. Don’t apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
- Take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing from dusk to dawn or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside. Use air conditioning if possible.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths on a regular basis.
Source: Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention