INDIANAPOLIS — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed to Indiana health officials that a person in Elkhart County contracted eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, a rare virus transmitted by mosquitoes. The patient died as a result of the infection. The identity of the person was not revealed.
This is the first human case in Indiana since 1998 and only the fourth reported since 1964, according to the health department. The CDC says approximately 5 to 10 human cases of EEE are reported nationwide each year, typically from late spring through early fall. Nearly one-third of human cases are fatal.
“It’s hard to imagine losing a loved one because of a mosquito bite, but unfortunately, mosquitoes carry diseases that can be life-threatening,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D.. “This is a tragic loss for an Indiana family.”
EEE has been found in more than a dozen horses and one mosquito sample in northern Indiana this year. County commissioners in Elkhart, LaGrange and Noble counties declared health emergencies earlier this month, which allowed the aerial spraying of insecticides to kill mosquitoes in areas where they breed.
Although mosquito activity decreases with cooler temperatures, the risk of mosquito-borne diseases will not be eliminated until the first hard freeze occurs. State health officials urge Hoosiers to continue to take steps to prevent mosquito bites until then:
• 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 para-menthane-diol 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
• Hoosiers also are encouraged to eliminate mosquito breeding sites by doing the following:
• Discard old tires, tin/aluminum 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
Health officials said the symptoms of EEE virus disease include chills, fever, body aches and joint pain. Some people develop a more severe form of the disease that affects the nervous system and causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). 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 health care provider.
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.