LAGRANGE COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — A rare mosquito-borne virus that has caused deaths in other states including Michigan was found in two horses in LaGrange County, and at least two area counties plan to conduct mosquito control spraying.

Noble County Health Officer Dr. Terry Gaff said Monday that the eastern equine encephalitis virus was found in horses in south central LaGrange County, within 5 miles of the Noble County border. The discovery has forced Noble County officials to monitor the activity, Gaff said.

The EEE virus has not been detected in Noble County. Still, though, Gaff said the Noble County Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health have been working together to monitor eastern EEE virus activity in Noble County.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, eastern equine encephalitis virus is an arthropod-borne virus that is primarily transmitted in Indiana by mosquitoes. People infected with EEEV can develop severe inflammation in the brain.

While only a few cases of EEEV disease are reported in the United States each year, several people have been sickened with the illness this year. Deaths have been reported in Michigan, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Earlier this month, the virus was found in three horses and a cluster of mosquitoes in Elkhart County.

Officials in both Noble and LaGrange counties plan to perform targeted mosquito control through aerial spraying to help protect residents from EEE virus. In Noble County, spraying will be targeted to southwest of Wolcottville and northwest of Rome City between S.R. 9 and C.R. 224 and C.R. 250 West. LaGrange County authories said they would perform targeted mosquito control with aerial spraying “to help protect residents from the EEE virus.”

On Wednesday, Crews will spray the pesticide Dibrom, Gaff explained. The fine aerosol droplets will stay suspended in the air and kill adult mosquitoes on contact. The spraying is expected to kill 90 percent of mosquitoes. The rest will die when the first hard frost of the year arrives.

Michigan, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have previously used the spray.

“We’re doing our best to make sure that the population of LaGrange and Noble county are kept safe from this threat,” Gaff said. “It is a rare problem in the first place, but we believe we can control this in a way that will prevent even the first human case in our area by trying to get rid of the mosquito vector as much as possible.”

Residents should also:

  • avoid areas where mosquitoes breed,
  • stay indoors when mosquitoes are active,
  • utilize an EPA-registered insect repellent, and
  • wear long-sleeved shirts and pants in areas of high mosquito activity.

Residents should also:

  • empty containers that are holding water,
  • unclog gutters,
  • keep overgrown vegetation mowed,
  • dispose of old tires and
  • maintain screens in doorways and windows.
  • swimming pools should be maintained clean and operational;
  • ornamental ponds should be aerated to prevent the collection of mosquito larvae.

For more information about EEE virus, visit the CDC’s website.