West Nile Testing

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They used to be a nusinance, but now they could be deadly: mosquitoes! Most of us try to avoid them -- but not Beth Gilmour. She knows just where to find them.

“Mosquitoes like water, it's where they lay their eggs.”

Beth works for the Stephenson County Health Department. Monday marks the kick-off of one of her most important seasonal jobs...testing mosquitoes for the west nile virus.

"West Nile Virus can kill people... people 50 and over are more apt to get the virus, and it's here to stay! It's in every state of the United States."

The traps are simple...fermented or "stinky" water attracts the insect...a battery powered fan sucks it up and into a net. Beth will check the traps Thursday and continue testing twice a week every week at 6 sites -- until cool fall weather returns.

They have to sit in a refrigerator overnight and be cooled down,” she says. “And the next day they'll be tested."

Most cases cause flu-like symptoms in humans...though it can bring on dangerously high fevers or meningitis and encephalitis. If you think an animal or someone you know has been infected, call your local health department immediately.

Health officials have already confirmed mosquito samples testing positive for West Nile Virus in DuPage and Tazewell counties. That's about two weeks earlier than the first confirmed case of 2006.

Stephenson County recorded ten positive mosquito pools and one non-fatal human case last year. A total of 10 people in the state died from the virus. We can protect ourselves by avoiding still water and using a bug repellent with "Deet."