A DuPage County resident in her 40s has the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in Illinois for 2020, as reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The woman became ill in mid-August.
“While we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also remember to take steps to protect our health from other illnesses,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “In an effort to decrease our risk of contracting COVID-19 from indoor settings, many of us are spending more time outdoors while still socially distancing. As we enjoy the outdoors, we need to protect ourselves from other viruses carried by mosquitoes by wearing insect repellent and getting rid of standing water around our homes.”
Human Cases Down From 2019
Last year, 46 counties in Illinois reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito batch, bird, horse, and/or human case. For the 2019 season, IDPH reported 28 human cases, including one death. The IDPH does note that human cases of West Nile are often underreported.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a Culex pipiens mosquito, also known as a house mosquito, which has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.
Four out of five people infected will not show any symptoms. But those do may experience fever, headache, nausea or muscle aches, lasting from a few days to a few weeks. Those symptoms usually go away on their own. But in rare cases, severe illness including meningitis, or even death, can occur. Those at higher risk include people older than 60, and those with compromised immune systems.
Precautions and Prevention
Health officials recommend observing the three “R”s to help prevent becoming infected: reduce, repel, and report.
- REDUCE – Keep mosquitos from getting inside your home by securing doors and windows with tight-fitting screens, and repair any tears. Make sure to keep your doors and windows closed. Remove any standing water from your property, in containers such as bird baths, wading pools or pots – mosquitos like to breed in standing water.
- REPEL – Outside, make sure to cover up – wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt and shoes and socks. Use 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.
- REPORT – Tell your local health department or city government if you spot water sitting stagnant somewhere for more than a week – whether in a ditch, yard, or similar spot. They may be able to kill any mosquito larvae by adding larvicide to the standing water.
The DuPage County Health Department has a Personal Protection Index on their website which keeps residents up to date on how much West Nile activity is in the area. It’s updated each Wednesday at 3 p.m.
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