To date, Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) officials report 23 human cases, 284 mosquito pools and six birds with West Nile virus (WNV) throughout suburban Cook County. These 23 cases do NOT include Chicago, Evanston, Skokie, Stickney Township or Oak Park – these communities have their own state certified local health departments. “While we do not want to alarm residents, residents need to understand that the virus is everywhere in suburban Cook County and they need to take basic, easy precautions to prevention against the virus,” said CCDPH interim chief operating officer, Sandra Martell, RN, DNP. “I strongly encourage residents to use mosquito repellant with DEET anytime they have to be outside and always wear light, loose fitting clothing when outdoors between dusk and dawn. These two steps of personal protection and removing standing water around your home are the best defense against West Nile virus.” The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites:
- Use insect repellents with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus when you go outdoors.
- Wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors.
- Empty standing water from items outside your home such as gutters, flowerpots, buckets, kiddie pools, and birdbaths. Water that is allowed to stagnate for three or four days becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Keep weeds and grass cut short and keep gutters clean and free of debris.
Most people infected with WNV have no symptoms of illness and never become ill. But illness can occur 3-15 days after an infected mosquito bite and cause symptoms of fever, headache and body aches. People over the age of 50 are at a higher risk for serious complications from encephalitis or meningitis. For that reason, people who experience high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, severe headaches, or a stiff neck should see a doctor immediately. For more information, please visit, www.cookcountypublichealth.org. West Nile virus numbers will be updated on the homepage Monday through Friday at noon. Like us: facebook.com/ccdph and follow us: twitter.com/cookcohealth.