Health officials urge residents to take steps to help prevent spread of West Nile virus

There’s good news and bad news for the rain-soaked region.

The good news: With the moisture, West Nile carrying mosquitoes are kept at bay.

The bad news: The rains bring the nuisance mosquitoes. You know, the little guys that hover around pools of water with an insatiable appetite for your blood, leaving itchy, red bumps in their wake.

There’s more bad news.

There’s still a chance for West Nile carrying mosquitoes to make an appearance in McHenry County this season, which lasts through the first frost. The best environment for virus-carrying mosquitoes is in warmer, dry climates, so there’s time before we’re at the greatest risk here, McHenry County Department of Health spokeswoman Debra Quackenbush said.

“We will be getting 80, 85, 90 degrees someday,” she said.

With that in mind, the McHenry County Department of Health is rolling out its annual prevention message and monitoring 10 mosquito traps strategically placed throughout the county.

West Nile has made its first yearly appearance downstate. In Henry County, an infected bird was found, and in Colona and Madison counties, health department employees collected a West Nile positive mosquito batch.

“West Nile virus activity is largely dependent on the weather,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “Despite our cold winter, mosquitoes are becoming active and infected with West Nile virus as the temperature increases. If we see a hot, dry summer, we could see a lot of West Nile virus activity.”

Last year, 76 Illinois counties reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito batch, bird or human case. For the 2013 season, IDPH reported 117 human cases, including 11 deaths.

None of the deaths were local. According to data provided by the McHenry County
Department of Health, in 2006 there were a record number of six people who contracted the virus. In 2012, there was one.

Illness from West Nile virus is usually mild and present three to 15 days after an infected mosquito bite. The illness includes fever, headache and body aches. Serious illnesses, such as encephalitis, meningitis and death are possible. Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks.

Mosquitoes transmit the virus to humans after feeding on a bird infected with West Nile virus.

The county health department encourages residents to stay protected, but also to report sick looking or dead birds by calling 815-334-4510.

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