Health officials warn people to protect themselves against mosquito bites

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2016 file photo of aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen in a mosquito cage at a laboratory in Cucuta, Colombia. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Health Departments across the country and the state are warning people to protect themselves against mosquito bites this year. Health leaders say the risk of someone catching West Nile virus or the Zika Virus is higher than usual.

Indiana health officials are again warning people to take precautions when going outside this summer to avoid mosquito bites. The warnings come not only in Indiana but when traveling outside the country as well.

The state’s health department said the most common mosquito-borne illness in Indiana is West Nile virus, but this year there is a chance of a mosquito carrying the Zika Virus.

The Centers for Disease Control said the Zika Virus could spread much farther north than previously thought. Officials previously found the disease in a second species of mosquito, which is common to Indiana.

Indiana has confirmed six cases of Zika Virus this year, and they have all been associated with international travel.

Scientist link the Zika Virus to serious birth defects.

According to Francis Collin, the director of the national institutes of health, a vaccine is still years away.

“We are working intensively on a vaccine, said Collins. “There are four vaccines being pushed simultaneously because we don’t know which one is going to work. By next fall there will be phase one trials to see if those are safe.”

Here are some simple steps the health department recommends to lower your chances of being bit.

  • Avoid outdoor activity at times and places where mosquitoes are biting
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when outdoors
  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET
  • You can limit your risk by taking steps like installing or repairing window and door screens
  • Removing, overturning or covering containers where standing water can collect outdoors
  • Flushing out bird baths, pet dishes and kiddie pools once a week
  • Dispose of used tires
  • Clean clogged gutters
  • Keep grass and shrubbery trimmed.

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