Mosquitoes and infection

West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes have been reported in northern Illinois. Photo: CDC

West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes have been reported in northern Illinois. Photo: CDC

You may have heard recently in the news the Illinois Department of Public Health has confirmed mosquitoes have tested positive for the dreaded West Nile virus in northern Illinois. The first human case in Illinois has been reported. there are steps you can take to avoid being infected.

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to reduce your exposure to mosquitoes by:

  • Avoid being outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long-sleeved clothing and insect repellant containing DEET if you must be outside.
  • Spray a light layer of insect repellant on clothing, rather than skin, if you’re concerned about chemical exposure.
  • Pour out any standing and stagnant water that has collected.
  • Keep gutters free of leaves and debris so water will run off properly.
  • Keep pet water dishes filled with fresh water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a majority of people infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms, but about one in five could experience headaches, body aches, fatigue, fever and sometimes a skin rash. For those infected, these symptoms can last for a few days or up to a couple of weeks. Less than 1 percent of those infected will develop encephalitis or meningitis, serious neurological illnesses.

Recovery from these conditions can take several weeks to months and can be fatal if not properly treated. Serious illness from West Nile virus can occur in anyone, but for people over 60 or people with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension, the risk is greater.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or the Illinois Department of Public Health website for more information on West Nile virus and protection from mosquito bites.