Human case of West Nile Virus confirmed in Elkhart County

By: Kari Huston
By: Kari Huston

At least one person and possibly two others have the West Nile Virus in Elkhart County.

Wednesday, the health department reported the first human cases of the season.

The Indiana State Health Department is still evaluating lab tests for two of the three people.

However, Elkhart County expects to have positive confirmation on those two, soon.

Positive confirmation
Health officials believe three people have the West Nile Virus in Elkhart County.

No human cases of West Nile were documented in that community last year.

In 2004 and 2003 Elkhart County saw one case each year, and in 2002, 23 people were infected.

Health officials say there is no way to be sure how many residents have had it, because most people are healthy enough to fight the virus off.

"Some people could have become ill with West Nile Virus and had a little mild flu like illness and it went away," says Nurse Peg Ramey, with Elkhart County Community Health Nursing. "A doctor would probably order tests if a person had a severe headache that just would not go away for several days in a row. Some people enter the emergency room very sick, very ill and weak."

The health department won't tell us if the three people suspected of having West Nile have been hospitalized.

However, they do say take precautions against mosquitoes.

Do away with mosquito breeding sites, like standing water or overgrown shrubbery or bushes.

Elkhart mosquitoes first tested positive for West Nile back in August.

However, with the current fluctuating temperatures, conditions to catch the virus can still be right.

Environmental Health Supervisor John Hulewicz explains, "The last batch that tested positive were culex pipiens. Culex pipiens are commonly referred to as the common house mosquito. They will look for places to [hide] over winter; encroach upon people's living spaces, maybe a barn and they're still looking for a blood meal."

Lurking danger
Although the weather is cooling, health officials caution, West Nile mosquitoes are still out there, at least until the first hard frost.

LaGrange, St. Joseph, and Kosciusko Counties are just a few of Elkhart's neighboring counties that have also reported having West Nile mosquitoes.

Some horses in Elkhart County have also been infected with the West Nile Virus.

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