SPRINGFIELD – Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, announced today the first death related to West Nile virus in Illinois for 2007. A 77-year-old Ogle County man died yesterday after becoming ill from West Nile virus earlier this month. The first human case was reported in DuPage County on June 15. A total of eight human cases of West Nile virus in Illinois this summer have been reported in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Madison, Ogle and Tazewell counties.
“West Nile virus is being reported throughout Illinois. Senior citizens and those individuals with weak immune systems are especially vulnerable so I want to stress the importance of taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself against mosquito bites," Dr. Whitaker said. "There are preventive actions you can take to avoid getting West Nile virus such as wearing insect repellent with DEET and I encourage everyone who goes outside, especially from dusk to dawn, to take this preventive measure.”
Eight counties have reported positive mosquito samples so far this year including Cook, DuPage, Lake, Lee, Macoupin, Saline, Sangamon and Tazewell. DuPage and Sangamon counties each have reported one positive bird.
In 2006, the first human death related to West Nile virus in Illinois occurred August 23. The first positive mosquito sample was reported May 24th in DuPage County and the first human case was reported August 1 in St. Clair County. Last year 77 of the state’s 102 counties were found to have a West Nile positive bird, mosquito, horse or human case. A total of 215 human cases of West Nile disease, including 10 deaths, were reported last year in Illinois.
Surveillance for West Nile virus in Illinois began May 1st and includes laboratory tests on mosquitoes, dead crows, blue jays, robins and other perching birds as well as the testing of sick horses and humans with West Nile-like disease symptoms. Citizens who observe a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird should contact their local health department, which will determine if the bird is to be picked up for testing.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. 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.
Only about two persons out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis and meningitis, and death are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.
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:
• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. Use prevention methods whenever mosquitoes are present.
• When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
• 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 that can support mosquito breeding, including flowerpots, clogged roof gutters, old tires and any other receptacles. Change water in bird baths weekly. Properly maintain wading pools and stock ornamental ponds with fish. Cover rain barrels with 16 mesh wire screen. 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.
Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Department’s Web site at www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm or people can call the West Nile Virus Hotline at 866-369-9710 Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
The Illinois Department of Public Health will send news releases updating West Nile virus activity in the state every Wednesday during the season. Updates throughout the week can be found on the Department Web site.