SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has confirmed the first West Nile virus positive bird reported in Illinois for 2013. The Monroe County Health Department collected a West Nile virus positive starling on June 27, 2013 in Waterloo.
“We are now starting to see West Nile virus in both mosquitoes and birds, which means it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing West Nile virus in people,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “Remember to protect yourself by wearing insect repellent and getting rid of any standing water around your home.”
A mosquito sample collected in Cook County in May was the first West Nile virus positive result this year. To date, West Nile virus positive birds and/or mosquitoes have been reported in 17 counties – Bureau, Clay, Cook, DuPage, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Macoupin, Madison, Marion, McHenry, Monroe, Peoria, Perry, Putnam, Sangamon and St. Clair (website updates every Wednesday afternoon www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnvsurveillance12.htm). No human cases of West Nile virus have been reported so far this year.
Last year, 55 counties in Illinois reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito batch, bird and/or human case. For the 2012 season, IDPH reported the second highest number of West Nile virus human cases in state history with 290 residents and 12 deaths. This was second only to the 2002 outbreak in Illinois in which 884 residents contracted West Nile disease and 67 died.
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-like disease symptoms. People who observe a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird should contact their local health department.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Common West Nile virus 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 are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.
The best way to prevent West Nile disease 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. Precautions include practicing the three “R’s” – reduce, repel and report.
• REDUCE exposure - avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
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, including flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. Change water in bird baths weekly.
• 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 - 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.
Public health officials believe that a hot summer increases mosquito activity and the risk of disease from West Nile virus.
Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Web site here.