Put on the long sleeves and make sure the loved ones are protected with mosquito repellent — West Nile is back.
The Tazewell County Health Department catches batches of mosquitoes and tests them. It announced Thursday that the first mosquitoes of the season to test positive for the virus in Tazewell County were in Pekin in late July.
The health department is urging people to use protective clothing and repellent from evening to morning hours when Culex species mosquitoes are more active, as well as follow a few simple steps to protect themselves and their families. The virus is transmitted through the bite of a Culex pipiens mosquito that has fed on infected birds.
While most people experience minor symptoms such as fever, nausea, headache, and muscle weakness and aches, other people are hit hard by the virus. Minor case symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. More severe symptoms include convulsions, paralysis and coma, said Evelyn Neavear, TCHD environmental health director.
“Four out of five people infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms,” says Neavear. “In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis or encephalitis, or even death, can occur.”
People over 50, young children and people with compromised immune symptoms are at greater risk of serious illness from the disease, said Neavear, “but anybody can contract West Nile Virus.” Precautions include practicing the three “R’s” — reduce, repel and report.
“The thing that’s probably most important is preventing the mosquitoes from breeding,” said Neavear.
Reduce the chance of infection by making sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have openings, and try to keep doors and windows shut. Eliminate or replace all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other containers.
Neavear said there are larvicides available to keep mosquitoes from breeding that can be placed in items in which water can stagnate. She said holes can be placed in old tires so water will drain. The mosquitoes breed in stagnant water that has no movement. Swimming pools with filters running are not a threat, she said.
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 as directed in label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants. Neavear said to follow the directions of the propellants because overuse can be dangerous, she said.
Always 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, according to the IDPH website.
TCHD is testing areas in Creve Coeur, Delavan, East Peoria, Mackinaw, Minier and Pekin. Pekin was the only city with positive results, but Neavear said no one should exclude the threat of infection.
“I don’t ever want to say anyone is safe because these mosquitoes can travel over a mile,” she said. “So it just means that they’ve been found in that area.
“They could travel all over. We have found them in different areas before in the county. The only way you can say you’re safe is if you prevent yourself from getting bites.”
The first reported case of West Nile Virus in Illinois was in 2001. The first positive test on mosquitoes in Tazewell County in 2016 was on May 27 in Pekin.
Additional information about West Nile Virus can be found on the IDPH website at www.idph.state.il.us/
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin