Mosquitoes are bad enough, but when there’s a chance they can be carrying West Nile virus, they’re even more pesky.
The virus is transmitted through bites from mosquitoes that picked up the virus from an infected bird. Symptoms include fever, nausea and aches, and in rare cases, death.
For about the past 16 years, the summer and early fall months have brought reports of birds, mosquitoes and humans who have tested positive for West Nile virus locally.
So while you’re likely to start glazing over such headlines as they become more common, it’s no time to be complacent.
Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. Four out of five people infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms. In rare cases, severe illness, including meningitis or encephalitis – or even death –
can occur. People older than 50 and immunocompromised individuals are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.
And, as we are in the dog days of summer, we should expect to see West Nile virus activity increase. In hot, dry weather, mosquitoes that carry West Nile breed in stagnant water and multiply rapidly.
Illinois public health officials reported the state has confirmed its first human case of West Nile virus this year.
Precautions include practicing 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 birdbaths, ponds, flowerpots, pets’ bowls, clogged rain gutters, wading pools, old tires and any other containers.
• REPEL – when outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a 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.
• REPORT – report locations where you see water sitting stagnant for more than a week, such as roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that might attract mosquitoes. The local health department or city government might be able to add larvicide to the water, which will kill any mosquito eggs.