Our view: Fight spread of West Nile

With the number of area cases rising, McHenry County residents should do their part to help prevent the spread of West Nile virus.

An early and unusually warm spring contributed to larger populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes this summer. Mosquitoes can contract the virus by biting an infected bird, then pass it on by biting a human.

To date, McHenry County has had no confirmed cases of human West Nile this year. But 21 of the 190 mosquito batches tested in McHenry County have tested positive for the virus, and four birds have tested positive.

Statewide, there have been 48 positive human cases this year resulting in two deaths, both in the suburbs.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the best way residents can prevent West Nile virus is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around the home. The department recommends these steps:

• Reduce exposure by avoiding the outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially around dusk and dawn. Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens, and repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Keep doors and windows shut, especially at night. Eliminate all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, such as water in birdbaths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other containers.

• Repel mosquitoes when outdoors by wearing shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.

• Report an overabundance of mosquitoes in communities where there are organized mosquito control programs. Contact municipal governments to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.

Winter will eliminate the problem for several months. In the meantime, do your part.

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