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 to 70 years old and live in Lake in the Hills, Woodstock and Cary.
Three of the residents were hospitalized, but have since returned home, she said. Test results are also pending on several other residents suspected of having the virus.
“This could be even bigger than we think,” she 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. A total of 34 cases and three deaths were reported in 2011.
Deaths relating to West Nile include a 64-year-old Elgin who died in August, and longtime Lombard Village President William Mueller died from complications caused by the virus.
A greater incidence of West Nile virus is attributed to an early start to the warm season, which altered the traditional beginning of 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 using the three “R’s.”
• 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 stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and other locations that may produce mosquitoes.
For information, visit www.mcdh.info or call 815-334-4585.