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Our View: Take steps to avoid West Nile

Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

The buzz surrounding the West Nile virus in Illinois has quieted, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions to reduce your risk to exposure.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has confirmed that a bird in Henry County and mosquitoes in Madison County have tested positive for West Nile virus this spring. No human cases have been reported.

In 2013, there were 117 human cases of West Nile, including two in McHenry County, according to IDPH. There were 11 deaths. Those figures are down from the 290 human cases and 12 deaths in 2012. There were six human cases of West Nile in McHenry County in 2012, according to IDPH.

Human cases started to spike after only five were reported in 2009. In 2010, there were 61 human cases of West Nile virus, including four deaths. There were 34 human cases and three deaths in 2011.

West Nile virus is most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes. It can cause fever, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).

There are steps you can take to protect yourself from being bitten by a West Nile-infected mosquito. Follow these tips from the health department:

• Wear shoes, socks, long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are most active – usually dawn and dusk.

• When possible, avoid the outdoors during peak biting times – dawn and dusk.

• Spray clothing with insect repellent.

• Apply insect repellent sparingly to exposed skin by following label directions. Some experts recommend lower concentrations for children. Check with your doctor before applying insect repellent on infants, and wash your hands after using insect repellent.

• Look for EPA-labeled products containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.

It also is important to eliminate mosquito breeding sites from around your residence. Mosquito eggs can develop in any standing water that lasts more than five to seven days. Follow these health department tips:

• Turn over children’s wading pools and toys when not in use.

• Drill holes in the bottom of recycling and trash containers that are left outdoors.

• Change water in birdbaths twice a week.

• Fix leaky faucets. They provide water where mosquitoes can breed.

• Drill holes in window boxes and flower planters to prevent water from pooling.

• Aerate ornamental ponds or stock with mosquito-eating fish.

• Keep pools clean and chlorinated.

• Eliminate standing water in your property.

Take proper precautions this summer to reduce your exposure to the West Nile virus.

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