West Nile Virus season is here

By on May 24, 2010

Kane County—The Kane County Health Department is cautioning residents now that as the warm weather approaches, so does the West Nile Virus season.

Hot, dry weather and stagnant water are the two main ingredients prized by the culex mosquito, the species most commonly associated with the disease.

“As we look forward to outdoor activities this summer, we need to be mindful of West Nile Virus and take precautions for our family by wearing insect repellent and protective clothing,” Executive Director Paul Kuehnert said. “We’ve been lucky the last two years, because cool spring temperatures have helped to slow the spread and keep our case counts down. We can’t count on that happening again this year.”

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.

Last year there were no human cases reported in Kane County. Five were reported in Illinois. Kane saw three cases in 2008, in 2007 there were 13, four in 2006, 17 in 2005, two in 2004, none in 2003 and nine in 2002.

About two 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, as well as death are possible. People 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.
• Change water in birdbaths 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 at www.kanehealth.com or www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm. People also can call the IDPH West Nile Virus Hotline at (866) 369-9710 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.