First 2013 case of West Nile reported in Illinois

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An Illinois woman has been infected with the state’s first case of West Nile virus for 2013.

An eastern Illinois county reported a woman in her 50s became ill in August, reported the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on Wednesday, August 21.

The first yearly case in Iowa was reported in July.

Mosquitoes transmit the virus from feeding on infected birds and then biting a person. Symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, nausea, headache, and muscle aches, lasting anywhere from days to a few weeks. The IDPH said four-out-of-five people do not show any symptoms. In unusual cases, the virus can cause severe illness including meningitis and encephalitis. Also in rare cases death can occur. People older than 50 are at higher risk for severe illness, according to the department.

The first bird, a starling, tested positive for the virus in June in Monroe County. In 2012, 55 counties in Illinois had reported mosquito batches, birds, or humans that had been infected with the virus, according to the health department. During the 2012 season, the IDPH reported the second highest number people infected with West Nile virus in Illinois history; 290 residents were infected and resulted in 12 deaths.

The department’s director, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said most often the mosquitoes that carry the virus are “stealthy biters” and not as noticeable as the ones that swarm floodwaters.

“The first human case is a good reminder that we all need to take precautions,” said Hasbrouck.

The IDPH advised that the best way to prevent West Nile is to reduce the amount of mosquitoes around your home and avoid mosquito bites.

To reduce exposure, the department said to avoid being outside between dusk and dawn – when mosquitoes are most active. Make sure tight-fitting screens are on doors and windows to keep them out of your home. Also keep doors and windows shut. Remove standing water around your home. Standing water is where mosquitoes can breed. This includes flowerpots, wading pools, old tires, and other containers. Bird bath water should be changed weekly.

Wearing shoes, socks, and clothing that covers as much skin as possible is a good way to repel mosquitoes, according to the IDPH. Applying insect repellant containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR 3535 can help repel them, when used according to label instructions. The department said consult a physician before using repellents on infants.

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