IDPH announces Cook County resident is 1st Illinois death from West Nile virus in 2023

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Cook County resident is 1st Illinois death from WNV in 2023: IDPH
A Cook County resident is the first West Nile virus-related death in Illinois in 2023, IDPH reported.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Cook County resident was the first human West Nile virus-related death of 2023, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced.

The individual, who was in their 90s, showed symptoms of WNV in early August and died soon after. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed this was related to the virus.

West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites from bugs that feed off infected birds.

During mosquito breeding season, the IDPH said it is important to take precautions, including using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing, and reporting locations at high risk for producing mosquitoes, including areas of standing water.

Recent rains have helped the mosquito population grow in Chicagoland, said North Shore Mosquito Abatement District Executive Director Mark Clifton.

There have been 11 additional WNV cases reported in Illinois, but all were non-fatal.

From 12 human cases, seven were reported from Cook County, including two in Chicago. Kane, Macon, Madison, Will and Woodford counties each reported one human WNV case.

"This death and the 11 additional cases are a stark reminder that West Nile virus poses a serious risk, especially to older people and those with weakened immune systems," IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said.

Common symptoms of WNV include fever, nausea, headaches and muscle aches, which may last from a few days to a few weeks. Four out of five people infected by WNV will not show symptoms. In rare cases, WNV can lead to severe illness, including brain infections, paralysis and death.

Those who are age 50 or older and individuals who are immunocompromised are at a higher risk for severe illness from WNV.

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WNV does not have a vaccine or specific treatment at present, making it important for people to take precautions against the virus.

IDPH encourages the public to practice its three "Rs" - reduce, repel and report.


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. Eliminate, or refresh each week, all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other containers.


When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt, and apply an EPA-registered insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR 3535, according to label instructions. The CDC does not recommend use of products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children under 3. Consult a physician before using repellents on children under 3.


Report locations where you see water sitting stagnant for more than a week such as roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes. The local health department or city government may be able to add larvicide to the water, which will kill any mosquito larvae.

In 2022, seven individuals died from WNV, and 26 other non-fatal cases were reported. The youngest person to report a case was 26, and the median age of human cases was 64.