Indiana detects first West Nile virus activity of 2013

Indiana state health officials confirmed the first signs of West Nile virus on Friday in mosquitoes tested in Adams County.

The Indiana State Department of Health said the detection of West Nile virus is earlier than normal and that there will likely be an increase in activity in other counties as the season moves forward. In 2012, West Nile virus was detected in every Indiana county except Crawford County.

"With this earlier than usual discovery of West Nile virus activity, Hoosiers are now at a greater risk of West Nile virus," Jennifer House, the director of zoonotic and environmental epidemiology at the health department, said. "But there are many ways people can help protect themselves and their families. By following several simple, effective and important steps, they can help reduce not only mosquitoes, but mosquito bites."

House recommended that Hoosiers avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito biting times from dusk till dawn, apply insect repellent with picaradin, DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin and clothes, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants while outside when possible and install or repair screens on doors and windows.

The department said it was impossible to predict how severe this year's West Nile virus season will be as rainfall and temperatures can cause the number of cases to fluctuate.

West Nile virus typically causes a mild form of illness, which can include headache, swollen lymph glands, rash, body aches, fever and headache. A small portion of individuals can develop encephalitis, meningitis and other severe neurological syndromes. Eight Hoosiers died from the illness last year.