The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has confirmed the first West Nile virus positive mosquito batch reported in Illinois for 2015. St. Clair County Health Department employees collected a positive mosquito batch on May 26, 2015, in O’Fallon.
“West Nile virus activity is largely dependent on the weather and with the increased temperatures we’ve been seeing in Southern Illinois, mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus are becoming active,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. “We want to remind people not to be complacent. Take precautions to protect yourself by wearing insect repellent and getting rid of standing water around your home.”
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 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 and immunocompromised individuals are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile Virus.
The first West Nile virus positive results in 2014 were a positive bird in Henry County collected on May 29, 2014, and a positive mosquito batch in Madison County collected on May 30, 2014. Last year, 50 counties in Illinois reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito batch, bird and/or human case. For the 2014 season, IDPH reported 44 human cases (although human cases are underreported), including four deaths. No human cases of West Nile virus have been reported so far this year.
As temperatures continue to 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 – minimize being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. If you go outside during these times, take precautions. Even if mosquito numbers seem low, it only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to transmit the virus.
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, such as old tires, buckets and other receptacles, or refresh the water in bird baths, flowerpots and wading pools every couple days.
• 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 http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/west-nile-virus.