SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has confirmed the first West Nile virus positive bird and mosquito batch reported in Illinois for 2014. Henry County Health Department employees collected a positive bird on May 29, 2014 in Colona and Madison County Health Department employees collected a positive mosquito batch on May 30, 2014 in Godfrey.
“West Nile virus activity is largely dependent on the weather. Despite our cold winter, mosquitoes are becoming active and infected with West Nile virus as the temperature increase. If we see a hot, dry summer, we could see a lot of West Nile virus activity,” said IDPH Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “We want to remind people not to be complacent. Take precautions to protect yourself by wearing insect repellent and taking other precautions.”
The first West Nile virus positive result in 2013 was a mosquito batch collected on May 21, 2013 in Cook County. Last year, 76 counties in Illinois reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito batch, bird and/or human case. For the 2013 season, IDPH reported 117 human cases, including 11 deaths. No human cases of West Nile virus have been reported so far this year.
Surveillance for West Nile virus in Illinois includes laboratory tests on mosquito batches, dead crows, blue jays, robins and other perching birds, as well as testing sick horses and humans with West Nile virus-like symptoms. People who observe a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird should contact their local health department, which will determine if the bird will be picked up for testing.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.
Common West Nile virus symptoms include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. However, four out of five people infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms. In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis or encephalitis, or even death, can occur. People older than 50 are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile Virus.
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As temperatures warm up, remember to take some simple precautions to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and protect yourself from being bitten. Precautions include practicing the three “R’s” – reduce, repel and report.
• REDUCE exposure - avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
Eliminate all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. Change water in birdbaths weekly.
• REPEL - when outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
• REPORT – report dead birds to your local health department. In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government about areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
Additional information about West Nile virus can be found by logging onto www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm.
IDPH continues to implement its Five Year Strategy 2014-2018 to maximize IDPH’s effectiveness, influence and value for promoting wellness, health equity, safety and improved health outcomes. Strategic plan priorities include developing and expanding partnerships; improving data utilization; reducing health disparities; improving regulatory compliance; and branding, marketing and communicating IDPH’s value.