A case of West Nile virus has been reported in Winnebago County, said the county and state health departments. A 32-year-old woman from Winnebago County, who became ill Sept. 15, was hospitalized with West Nile encephalitis and has since been discharged, said the agencies. It was one of three new cases, said the state department, pushing the Illinois total to 33 human cases as of Oct. 7. Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, said the other cases of the mosquito-borne disease were: u A 70-year-old man from Chicago, who became ill Sept. 20, was hospitalized with West Nile encephalitis and has since been discharged. u A 56-year-old man from Will County, who became ill Sept. 7, was hospitalized with West Nile fever and has since been discharged. The 33 cases of West Nile disease include one deatha 78-year-old woman from suburban Cook County. Other cases have been from the city of Chicago (three), suburban Cook County (12), DuPage County (two), Sangamon County (three) and one each from Champaign, DeKalb, LaSalle, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, McLean, Piatt, St. Clair, Vermilion, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago counties. In 2002, Illinois had the most West Nile disease cases in the nation with 884 and 66 deaths. Dr. Whitaker has advised people to take simple, common-sense precautions to avoid mosquito bites and to protect themselves from West Nile illness. He also reminded Illinoisans that the mosquito season will continue until there is a sustained, hard frost that usually occurs in late October. Suggested precautions include: u Whenever outdoors between dusk and dawn, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Loose-fitting, light colored clothing is best. u When it is necessary to be outdoors, apply insect repellent as indicated on the repellent label. The more DEET a product contains, the longer the repellent can protect against mosquito bites. However, concentrations higher than 50 percent do not increase the length of protection. For most situations, 10 percent to 25 percent DEET is adequate. Apply repellents to clothes whenever possible; apply sparingly to exposed skin if label permits. Consult a physician before using repellents on young children. u Check residential screens, including those on porches and patios, for tears and other openings. Repair, as necessary, to prevent mosquito entry. u Eliminate stagnant water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles in which mosquitoes might breed. Dr. Whitaker saidwhile there is reason for concernfew people (about one in 150) will develop serious illness if bitten by an infected mosquito. WNV is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Whitaker said most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Those who become ill may have mild symptoms and include fever, headache and body aches, or can be severe and marked by headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and, in rare cases, death. Serious West Nile virus illness is most often present in individuals 50 years of age or older. A total of 213 birds, 388 mosquito pools and 25 horses have tested positive in 2003 for West Nile virus in 68 Illinois counties since surveillance began May 1. Last year, West Nile activity was reported in 100 of the states 102 counties. West Nile virus has been detected in 45 states in 2003, and nearly 6,300 human cases have been reported. The Culex or house mosquito, which can carry West Nile virus or the St. Louis encephalitis virus, breeds in warm, stagnant water and remains active and biting until there is a hard frost. Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the health departments Web site http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm or by calling the West Nile virus hotline at (866) 369-9710.