Online Staff Report
Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) has reported the first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) in the county for 2011.
The individual is a female older than 50 who resides in the 61108 ZIP code. This individual experienced mild symptoms and was not hospitalized. To date, there have been six human cases of WNV reported since 2003 in Winnebago County.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting 10 human cases of West Nile virus in Illinois, including a Cook County man in his 60s, who had underlying health conditions and was diagnosed with West Nile virus in August and died earlier this month.
The first human cases of West Nile virus were reported Aug. 19 and included a Cook County man in his 80s and a Franklin County man in his 30s. So far this year, 18 counties have reported mosquito batches, birds or people testing positive for West Nile virus.
Based on nationwide experience in Illinois over the previous 10 years of WNV presence in the United States, the peak period for WNV transmission, particularly to humans, has been from mid-July through the middle of October. It is important to keep in mind again that this is influenced by many environmental factors that affect the viral amplification cycle (e.g., weather, host and vector densities, immune status and other characteristics).
“Although we have experienced cooler than normal temperatures in northern Illinois for September, we have not yet had several hard freezes to abate mosquito activity, so it is important for people to continue to protect themselves against mosquito bites,” said Winnebago County Public Health Administrator Mike Bacon.
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.
“Every WNV season, the Winnebago County Health Department offers a phone line for residents to report the location and number of dead birds,” said WNV Program Manager Todd Marshall.
The report line number to call is (815) 720-4245.
“After calling in a report of a dead bird, you can dispose of the bird yourself, or leave it where it lay, if not picked up for testing within 24 hours of your call,” added Marshall.
When calling the hotline to report dead birds, leave the address, ZIP code, town, type and number of dead birds found.
“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,” Marshall said. “Use a shovel, gloves or double-plastic bags to place the carcass in 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. That number is (815) 720-4240.
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. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added additional products containing picaridin and lemon of eucalyptus. Both ingredients have also proven effective as mosquito repellents.
Personal/home precautions to prevent West Nile virus
• 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 of the active ingredient DEET, or picaridin or lemon of eucalyptus. 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. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for use.
• Check screens on porches and patios for tears and other openings.
For more about West Nile virus, visit the following websites: Illinois Department of Public Health at www.idph.state.il.us; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm; and Winnebago County Health Department at www.wchd.org.