1st reports of West Nile virus

The samples- which were collected on May 11 in Evanston and Wilmette- are the first of the year in Illinois to test positive.

"We expect to see West Nile virus every year in Illinois and these positive West Nile virus samples should remind us that we need to protect ourselves against mosquito bites," said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director. "I urge everyone to get rid of any stagnant water around their homes to reduce the number of mosquitoes, and to make sure you wear insect repellent to protect yourself."

Last year, 28 of Illinois 102 counties had positive reports of West Nile Virus- bird, mosquito, horse or human cases. In 2008, 20 human cases were reported- one of which was fatal- in Illinois.

The state started looking for West Nile on May 1 by testing mosquitoes, dead crows, blue jays robins and other birds, as well as sick horses and humans with West Nile-like symptoms. The disease is transmitted through mosquitoes that pick up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people who have the virus have no symptoms and become ill several days after being bitten. Human cases normally don't appear until July. People older than 50 years have the highest risk of a severe illness from the virus.

Prevention is the key, according to state health officials:

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
  • When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
  • 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 that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report 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 on the Illinois Department of Public Health's Web site at idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm .

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