WINNEBAGO (WIFR) -- The Winnebago County Health Department is reporting that two human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) have been confirmed. Both cases are middle-aged women who both reside in the Winnebago zipcode. One of the women was hospitalized while the other was not and both are recovering well.
The Department also reports that WNV has been found in 23 birds and 11 mosquito pools in Winnebago County for the 2012 season.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting 138 human cases of West Nile virus in Illinois, and so far this year 49 counties in the state have reported mosquito pools, birds, and horses testing for the virus.
“In light of the risk of West Nile virus exposure in our community, it's important for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites. We want to remind residents by being outside means you are at risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito, especially this late in the season. Therefore, even though it is September, it's important for people to continue taking steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites and apply insect repellent when you go outdoors, wear long sleeves and pants, and limit your activities at dusk and dawn,” said Winnebago County Health Department Public Health Administrator, Mike Bacon.
WNV is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. West Nile Virus is an infection that can cause serious illness, but 80% of the people infected with WNV have no signs or symptoms of illness. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but about 20% may become ill 3 to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Those with mild symptoms may have a fever, headache, body aches, skin rash or swollen lymph glands, but those with serious symptoms such as encephalitis and meningitis should seek medical assistance immediately. Persons over the age of 50 with underlying medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and organ transplants, are at greater risk for illness from being infected.
There are no medications to treat, or vaccines to prevent, West Nile virus infection. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks. In more severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care.
The best way to prevent West Nile virus or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
• 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 contains 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. Use your air conditioning, if you have it.
• Empty standing water from items outside your home such as gutters, flowerpots, buckets, kiddie pools, and birdbaths.
To report dead birds, residents can call the Winnebago County Health Department hotline at
815- 720-4245. When calling the hotline to report dead birds, please leave the address, the location of the bird on the property, the town and Zip Code, and number of dead birds found.
After calling in a report of a dead bird, please leave it where it lays for 24 hours. If it is not picked up for testing, you can dispose of the bird yourself. Dead birds cannot spread West Nile Virus, but it is advised to avoid barehanded contact with dead birds and other animals since they carry a variety of germs. Please use a shovel, gloves or double-plastic bags to place the carcass in garbage bag or can.
Persons can call the Winnebago County Health Department West Nile virus information line with questions or wish to speak to a health professional at 815-720-4240, Monday - Friday from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. Additional information on West Nile virus, can be obtained on the Winnebago County Health Department’s website at www.wchd.org, or the Illinois Department of Public Health website at www.idph.state.il.us.>. National information on West Nile virus may be found at the Center for Disease Control’s website at www.cdc.gov/features/StopMosquitoes.