WOODSTOCK – Four McHenry County residents have contracted the West Nile virus since a Cary man was diagnosed in September, according to the McHenry County Department of Health.
The five confirmed cases are the most in the county since 2007, health department spokeswoman Debra Quackenbush said.
Those affected are between 61 and 70 years old and live in Lake in the Hills, Woodstock and Cary.
Three patients were hospitalized but have returned home, she said.
Test results also are pending for several other residents suspected of having the virus.
“This could be even bigger than we think,” Quackenbush said. “Sometimes there is a lag between the onset of being bit and the time it takes to be diagnosed.”
There have been 185 human cases of the virus and seven deaths statewide this year, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Thirty-four cases and three deaths were reported in 2011.
West Nile-related deaths this year include a 64-year-old from Elgin who died in August and longtime Lombard Village President William Mueller, who died Aug. 18 from complications caused by the virus.
A greater incidence of West Nile virus this year is attributed to early onset of warm weather and the traditional mosquito season, experts have said.
The virus is spread to humans in the bite of a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird.
Symptoms usually are mild and include fever, headache and body aches. Serious illnesses, such as encephalitis and meningitis, also are possible.
The state health department said the best way to prevent West Nile virus or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around the home and to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
For information, visit www.mcdh.info or call 815-334-4585.