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Henry County Health Department: West Nile Virus more likely to spread this time of year

KEWANEE, Illinois - Leaders at the Henry County Health Department say this time of year is when the spread of West Nile Virus is most common.

In order to detect the virus and warn the public of potential risks, officials at the health department trap mosquitoes in the woods brings them back to the health department and test them for the virus.

It's a process that most county health departments in the state complete.

In 2019, there have been 117 batches of mosquitoes that have tested positive for carrying West Nile Virus to date, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health's West Nile Virus in Illinois Surveillance website.

So far this year, no humans in Illinois have gotten sick because of the West Nile Virus but the Henry County Health Department takes the risk seriously.

Jenna Nowlan is an Environmental Health Sanitarian at the Henry County Health Department.

On July 30, Nowlan added larvicides to standing water in fields on the side of the road to kill mosquito eggs.

She also set traps in the woods to capture mosquitoes that would be tested.

"Mosquitoes love this standing, stagnant water and shaded area. So, that`s where we try to set them at," she said.

Nowlan said that mid-summer is a time where it is very likely to find West Nile Virus positive mosquitoes and birds.

In 2018, five batches of mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile Virus in Henry County, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Once the bugs are trapped, they are brought back to a lab at the health department.

As many as 500 bugs can be captured at a time.

The mosquitoes are placed into test tubes, then, into a grinder - where they are turned into a slurry mix.

A solution is added, and testing strips take about 15 minutes to detect West Nile Virus, if the insects test positive.

"If we weren't testing out there for these mosquitoes, then it would be a public health risk for these communities," said Nowlan.

Nowlan said the goal is to detect the virus as early as possible, then to educate the public on what they can do to protect themselves from getting sick.

To learn more about the way West Nile Virus can impact humans, click here.

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