SPRINGFIELD – As temperatures hover in the 90s in Illinois this week and with heat indices near 100, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich is urging people to protect themselves against the risk of West Nile virus infection and other illnesses, due to the heat.
“Hot weather can not only cause numerous difficulties, it can also take a toll on your health. I want to remind everyone to take some simple steps this summer to protect yourself against heat-related health problems and other illnesses we see this time of year, such as West Nile virus,” said Governor Blagojevich.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) believes hot weather can lead to a greater risk of contracting West Nile virus. High temperatures increase breeding conditions and biting activities for “house” mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.
“Every year we receive reports of dozens of people in Illinois becoming sick with West Nile virus after being bit by a mosquito,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Although there are no confirmed cases of a person becoming infected with the virus so far this year in Illinois, we're at the point in the summer when human cases of West Nile virus begin to be reported so people need to take measures to protect themselves against mosquito bites.”
To date, eight counties in Illinois have reported either birds or mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile virus: Adams, Cook, DuPage, Jackson, Macon, St. Clair, Tazewell, and Winnebago.
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.
- When outdoors, wear shoes and socks and long pants and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 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 water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires, and any other receptacles.
Other summer health problems include heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is the result of spending too much time in the heat, not just too much time in the sun. Exhaustion occurs when a person loses fluids and salts (electrolytes) due to sweating. Symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, light-headedness, severe headache, cool and clammy skin, heavy perspiration, and muscle cramps. If a person is suffering from heat exhaustion, lay the person down in a cool place with the person’s head lowered and feet raised, and immediately seek medical attention.
Similarly, heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures, even if a person is just sitting or lying in the heat for too long. Heat stroke can be fatal and should be considered a medical emergency. Symptoms can include a body temperature of 105 degrees or more, skin is hot to the touch, a red and dry face, headache, loss of consciousness in extreme cases, and seizures. A person suffering from heat stroke should be placed in a semi-sitting position and sprayed with tepid (not cold) water and cooled with fans. Medical attention should be sought immediately.
To prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke:
- Drink plenty of water and other liquids that do not contain caffeine or alcohol.
- Stay indoors in a cool place as much as possible.
- Avoid strenuous activity during the heat of the day – schedule activities during the morning or evening.
- Take frequent water breaks when outdoors.
Illinoisans are encouraged to take advantage of more than 120 state facilities that serve as cooling centers. The cooling centers provide Illinoisans a place to stay cool and comfortable during the hot days of summer. The cooling centers are located at Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offices throughout the state and the seven Illinois Tollway Oases in Chicago. They are open to the public during regular business hours, so anyone seeking refuge from the heat has a cool place to go when the temperature climbs.