Just because the chikungunya virus is not yet prevalent in the United States doesn't mean residents should worry less about mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes in Indiana can carry a variety of diseases, such as West Nile virus, St. Louis and Lacrosse encephalitis. People who are bitten and become infected with these diseases can experience symptoms such as headache, fever, dizziness, fatigue and rash.
While most people will recover fairly quickly, others may be susceptible to a more serious course of illness. People over age 50 and those with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk for severe illness, coma and even death from mosquito-borne disease.
Starting in July, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health will begin trapping and testing mosquitoes at locations throughout the county as part of its mosquito control program. The department no longer sprays for mosquitoes when West Nile virus is detected. The focus is now on primary prevention measures, such as education, surveillance and source reduction through larvaciding.
Because some mosquitoes are just as likely to bite during the middle of the day as they are at dusk or dawn, it is important that people wear insect repellent whenever they go outside.
"If you are going to be outdoors, cover up with long pants and long sleeves and apply an insect repellent with DEET to your clothing and exposed skin," says Dave Fiess, director of Vector Control & Environmental Services. "Nothing is more effective at warding off mosquitoes than wearing repellent."
Residents can also do their part to reduce mosquito breeding by emptying flower pots and other containers, replacing water in birdbaths, getting rid of old tires and cleaning out clogged gutters. Residents can also purchase a hand fogger or a barrier spray for use on low-lying bushes and trees to help cut down on the mosquito population.
People traveling in or outside the United States are also reminded to minimize their exposure to mosquitoes. An Allen County resident recently returned from the Caribbean with the chikungunya virus, the first such imported case in Indiana.
*Check your property for breeding sites. Eliminate any sources of standing water. Clean out gutters and birdbaths. Properly dispose of tires. Maintain swimming pools and hot tubs.Make sure septic tanks, rain barrels and garbage cans are covered.
*Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
*Limit time spent outdoors during peak mosquito biting times.
*When possible, wear loose, light-colored clothing, long-sleeved shirts and pants.
*Apply an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.