Southern Seven Health Department testing for West Nile virus in region
Southern Seven Health Department says West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States.
There are no vaccines to prevent or specific medications to treat West Nile virus in people, but there are steps which can be taken by people to prevent contracting the disease.
Beginning last week, Southern Seven Health Department planned to begin its annual trapping of mosquitoes throughout the lower seven counties in Illinois, including Union County, to test for West Nile virus. Trapping is scheduled to continue in the region through fall.
The Illinois Department of Public Health, IDPH, on May 26 confirmed the first mosquitoes to test positive for West Nile virus in the state in 2022.
The DuPage County Health Department collected a positive mosquito batch on May 24 from Roselle in DuPage.
As of May 26, no human cases of West Nile virus had been reported in Illinois.
“This is the time of year when West Nile virus makes its annual appearance,” IDPH acting director Amaal Tokars said in a news release.
“We remind everyone, and especially older people and those with weakened immune systems, to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes and the viruses they carry by wearing insect repellent and eliminating standing water around their home where mosquitoes breed.”
As of May 26, there had not been any cases of West Nile virus reported in the area counties served by the Southern Seven Health Department.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a Culex pipiens mosquito, commonly called a house mosquito, that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.
Monitoring for West Nile virus in Illinois includes laboratory tests for mosquito batches, dead crows, blue jays, robins and other perching birds, as well as testing sick horses and humans with West Nile virus-like symptoms.
People who see a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird are advised to contact their local health department, which will determine if the bird will be picked up for testing.
The virus is not spread through coughing, sneezing or touching. It is not spread by touching live or dead animals; however, the health department advises avoiding bare-handed contact when touching any dead animal.
When disposing of a dead bird, gloves or double plastic bags should be used to place the carcass in a garbage can, the health department advised.
The virus also cannot be spread through eating infected birds or animals. Always follow instructions for fully cooking meat from either birds or mammals, Southern Seven Health Department stated.
Common symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks.
However, four out of five people infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms.
In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis, encephalitis or even death can occur.
The health department advises people with symptoms of West Nile virus to contact their physician immediately.
Southern Seven Health Department advises that the risk of spreading West Nile virus can be reduced by following the three “R’s”: Reduce, Repel and Report.
Reduce: 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.
Eliminate, or refresh each week, all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other containers.
Repel: when outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a light-colored, 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.
Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus, OLE, or para-menthane-diol, PMD, on children under 3 years old.
Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts or irritated skin. Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
Report: report locations where you see water sitting stagnant for more than a week such as roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
The local health department or city government may be able to add larvicide to the water, which will kill any mosquito eggs.
More information about West Nile virus is available by contacting Southern Seven Health Department environmental health services director Miranda Adams by phone at 618-634-2297, extension 9114, or visit www.southern7.org online.