First bird tests positive for West Nile virus in Winnebago County

Online Staff Report

A dead bird found in Winnebago County’s 61107 ZIP code (Rockford) has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV), Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) reported Sept. 9.

The finding is much later from last year, when the first positive bird in Winnebago County was found Aug. 6.

This finding is not surprising, and we want to remind residents that WNV is once again present in our county,” said Todd Marshall, Environmental Health director for the WCHD. “As you head out this late-summer and fall, it is important to take precautions to protect yourself and your family to reduce the risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito. West Nile virus has been confirmed to be present in Winnebago County for the 13th year in a row.”

Warmer temperatures can 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.

Based on nationwide experience in Illinois over the previous 13 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.

The best way to prevent WNV, 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 “Rs” — 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 water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles.


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.


• “Every WNV season, the Winnebago County Health Department offers a phone line for residents to report the location of recently expired birds,” said WNV Program Specialist Terri Howard. “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.” When calling the hotline to report dead birds, leave the address, town, ZIP code, 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,” Howard said. “Please use a shovel, gloves or double-plastic bags to place the carcass in garbage bag or can.”

The Health Department has a WNV Information line for residents who have questions or wish to speak to a health professional. That number is (815) 720-4240.

WNV is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. WNV is an infection that can cause serious illness, but most people infected with WNV have no signs or symptoms of illness. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three 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 help right away as death can possibly occur. Persons at the highest risk for serious illness are those 50 years of age or older.

In the summer of 2013, Winnebago County Health Department received 315 calls from the general public with questions about WNV and dead bird reports. Those calls resulted in 113 birds tested, with nine being confirmed as positive. 146 mosquito pools were collected, with 13 testing positive with WNV. One confirmed human case with WNV was reported.

For more about WNV, visit the following websites:

Illinois Department of Public Health at

Center for Disease Control at

Winnebago County Health Department at

Posted Sept. 9, 2014

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