West Nile Virus is Back in Town

After the rain, mosquitoes! West Nile virus is back.

June 28, 2013---The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has confirmed the first West Nile virus positive mosquito batch in the City for 2013.

June 3, 2013---The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported the first positive sample identified in Illinois this year in Hillside, in Cook County.

In 2012, Cook County had 174 cases of West Nile virus. In Illinois, 290 people tested positive. There were 12 deaths.

While it is hard to predict what kind of outbreak this summer will bring, last summer was hot and dry--official drought conditions. This year, there's been abundant rain, but cooler temps, and a slow start to the mosquito season, so far.

That may be about to change.  More rain, followed by warmer weather, and we have ideal conditions for growing corn and tomatoes---and mosquitoes.  Even the so-called nuisance mosquitoes can be bothersome, but West Nile virus mosquitoes are a cause for concern .

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has information and guidelines on West Nile virus.

Here are some things you should know---

The virus was first discovered in the West Nile region of Uganda.  It has been found in the United States since 1999.

West Nile virus is most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Birds get infected by infected mosquitoes. Crows and bluejays are particularly vulnerable.

Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans and other animals. Horses are especially vulnerable.

There is a vaccine for horses.

There is no vaccine for people.

Most people will experience NO symptoms.

The most common complaint is minor flu-like symptoms--which is why cases may be under-reported.

West Nile virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).

While these cases are rare, serious illness can occur in people of any age.  However, older people (over 60) are at the greatest risk for severe disease.

People with compromised immune systems, and certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk.

Since there is no vaccine for people, prevention is important.  The CDC recommends using an EPA-certified mosquito repellant if you’re going to be outdoors. Products containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol  provide longer-lasting protection.

If you would prefer a DEET-free alternative  (as I do) my fellow ChicagoNow Blogger, Yoga Mom, has posted this recipe for  a natural, chemical-free mosquito repellant.

Additionally, there are plants you can grow that are natural repellants. Lemon balm, citronella and mint are all easy to grow, and  appealing to people, but not mosquitoes.

Here are some more guidelines from the CDC, ILDPH and CDPH--

Limit outdoor activity between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.  However, they can be out at any time.

If you are going out at night, wear  light colors, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks and shoes outside.

Use mosquito netting over infant carriers.

Keep mosquitoes from getting inside--repair screens on windows and doors.

Keep grass and weeds short, to eliminate hiding places for mosquitoes.

Remove  any standing water  outside---check flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pools, buckets, tires, etc.

Look out for your neighbors, too.

To report a dead bird---

In Chicago, dial 311.   In Cook County, call  (708) 633-8025 .

So, whatever you're doing outside in the evening, weeding your tomatoes and peppers, cutting grass or watching fireflies, working the night shift, please pay attention---be careful out there.

Don't let mosquitoes be more than a nuisance this summer!

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Filed under: seasons, weather

Tags: mosquitoes, West Nile Virus


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  • Great post - this is very helpful (and a little scary). Mosquitos always seem to swarm around me - I joke that it is because I'm sweet, but it is no fun to be all bitten up.

  • In reply to Yoga Mom:

    Dear Yoga Mom--Thanks for reading and commenting. Happy to share this information--I tried to play down the scary parts! Anyway,the mosquitoes around now are the "nuisance" type (they say)--still, it's a good idea to keep them away. Natural repellants are the best. Thanks again for sharing your recipe.

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