A local county has gotten their first positive test for West Nile virus.
A bird recently tested positive for West Nile virus in Knox County, according to a spokesperson from the county’s health department.
This positive test emphasizes the need for people to take extra precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
“Although very few mosquitoes actually carry West Nile virus, infected birds serve as an early warning by indicating the virus is present in the area and people should be more vigilant in protecting themselves against mosquito bites,” said a spokesperson from the Knox County Health Department.
The way people contract West Nile virus is by being bitten by an infected mosquito. For a mosquito to get the virus, they must feed on an infected bird. Horses can be infected by mosquitoes carrying the virus as well.
According to the health department, surveillance for West Nile in the State of Illinois started in May. This process includes laboratory testing on mosquitoes, dead crows, blue jays, robins, and other perching birds. Sick people and horses are also tested for West Nile if they exhibit symptoms that match the virus’ usual symptoms.
The health department advises that you follow the “Three ‘R’s” to protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes:
- Reduce – Reduce exposure to mosquitoes by avoiding the outdoors when the insect is most active between dusk and dawn.
- Repel – Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt if you are going to be outside. Also, apply an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil, or IR 3535. Apply according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellants on infants.
- Report – The Knox County Health Department conducts testing for West Nile virus via mosquito trapping and by collecting dead birds. If you see a dead bird report it to your local health department.
“If a dead bird is found between now and October and appears to have died of natural causes, residents should report the sighting to the Knox County Health Department,” said a department spokesperson.
Paul Guse, the Environmental Health Director with the Rock Island County Health Department said they also encourage residents to give them a call if they spot a dead bird around. Rock Island’s health department conducts mosquito testing as well as bird testing. Guse said another way to protect your home and neighborhood from breeding mosquitoes, you should remove any standing water in gutters, buckets, bird baths, and more. The Rock Island County Health Department’s number is 309-793-1955
The Knox County Health Department is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. If you see a dead bird in Knox County, you can call them at 309-344-2224 and they will determine of the bird is suitable for testing.