Health department begins the 2004 West Nile Virus season

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-28bQZsYMvx.jpg’, ‘Image courtesy of’, ‘Most people infected with West Nile Virus have no signs or symptoms of illness. If individuals do become ill, they will exhibit symptoms usually within three to 15 days.’);

The warm days of spring are upon us, and the Winnebago County Health Department would like to remind residents to start protecting themselves against West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans from the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.

Last year, Winnebago County reported only one human case and no horses with West Nile Virus. The warmer weather and recent rain will mean we can expect mosquitoes soon.

Dupage County has reported a WNV positive crow and several WNV positive mosquito pools in the past week. Above normal temperatures appear to increase the rate of Culex mosquito production, mosquito flight activity and virus replication, thereby increasing the proportion of birds and mosquitoes infected with WNV and the risk of disease to humans.

“Once again, the Winnebago County Health Department has opened a phone line for residents to the location and number of dead crows or blue jays,” said Larry Swacina, Environmental Health director. The report line number to call is (815) 720-4245.

“After calling in a report of a dead bird, please dispose of the bird yourself, Swacina said.” Remember, 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 a garbage bag or can.”

The Health Department has also opened a West Nile Virus Information line for residents who have questions or wish to speak to a health professional. The number is 720-4240.

When calling the hotline to report dead crows or blue jays, please leave the address, zip code, town and number of dead birds found. The Illinois Department of Public Health has limited the number of crows that can be submitted for WNV testing in 2004.

The best protection against West Nile Virus is to limit activities at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes that could carry the virus are most active. Protective clothing will ideally include lightweight, loose fitting, long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks. It’s best to always apply a repellant containing DEET (25 percent for adults, 10 percent for children, and not recommended for infants) when going outdoors.

Most people infected with West Nile Virus have no signs or symptoms of illness. Some individuals may become ill, usually three to 15 days after having been bitten by an infected mosquito. The virus may occasionally cause serious complications. In some individuals, particularly the elderly, the virus can cause muscle weakness, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, coma or death. It should be noted that the odds of being bitten by an infected mosquito and developing serious or life-threatening symptoms are minimal. Nevertheless, taking all recommended precautions (below) is encouraged, due to the potential seriousness of becoming infected by West Nile Virus.

Personal/Home Precautions to Prevent Mosquito Borne Encephalitis:

Alert health authorities to potential mosquito breeding sites in your area.

Avoid outdoor activities in the early morning and at dusk. Whenever outdoors between dusk and dawn, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Loose-fitting, light-colored clothing is best.

Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. An effective repellent will contain 25 to 35 percent DEET. Spray the repellent not only on exposed skin, but also on clothing. Consult a physician before using repellents on very young children.

Drain standing water in your yard at least once a week. Pour water from mosquito breeding sites, such as flower pots, pet bowls, clogged rain gutters, swimming pool covers, boats, discarded tires, buckets, barrels, cans, or similar items in which mosquitoes can lay eggs. For permanent standing pools of water, mosquito larvicide can be used. The larvicide can be purchased from many retail stores selling garden supplies. Please follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for use.

Check screens on porches and patios for tears and other openings.

For more information on West Nile Virus, visit the following Web sites:

Illinois Department of Public Health at

Center for Disease Control at

Winnebago County Health Department at

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!