OTTAWA – The LaSalle County Health Department has confirmed its first human case and death due to West Nile virus this year. A LaSalle County resident over 65 years of age, who became ill during the first part of August and tested positive for West Nile virus, has died. Chris Pozzi, Director of Environmental Health, said the report of a death is a very sad reminder that West Nile virus continues to be a serious health issue. “This is the time of year we expect to see the potential for human cases increase.”
West Nile virus thrives in dry, hot weather which was frequently experienced in our area during this summer. Even as we move into the fall months and fluctuating temperatures, it is crucial to protect against mosquito bites and possible West Nile virus infection. This reminder is especially important during outdoor activities, especially with fall sporting events getting underway. Mosquito activity does slow down as temperatures drop, but until our area experiences a hard freeze, personal protection measures need to be taken. The best way to protect against illness is to wear insect repellent and also to get rid of any stagnant water around your home in order to reduce the number of mosquitoes.
The number of human West Nile virus cases reported in LaSalle County during previous years include 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013, 2006, 2005 and 2003, which all had one case; 2007, two cases; 2004, five cases; and 2002, which had 11 cases during the late summer and early fall months.
In addition to the recent human case in LaSalle County, earlier this summer mosquitoes and birds also tested positive for the virus in the county. In LaSalle, a crow tested positive on July 24; in Ottawa, mosquitoes tested positive on July 27 and in Streator, a crow tested positive on July 31.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of what is commonly called a house mosquito that has gotten the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Common symptoms 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. People older than 60 and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.
Monitoring for West Nile virus includes laboratory tests for mosquito batches, dead crows, blue jays, and robins, as well as testing humans with West Nile virus-like symptoms. People who observe a sick or dying crow, blue jay, or robin should contact the health department, which will determine if the bird will be picked up for testing.
There are some simple precautions people can take to “Fight the Bite.” 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 bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, pet 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 water is 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.
A complete listing of West Nile virus statistics for LaSalle County is available on the Health Department’s website at www.lasallecounty.org. A state-wide listing is available at the Illinois Department of Public Health’s web site at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/west-nile-virus/surveillance.