A DuPage woman in her 40s who became ill in mid-August is the first known person to contract the West Nile virus this year in Illinois, according to state health officials.
“While we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also remember to take steps to protect our health from other illnesses,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a statement. “In an effort to decrease our risk of contracting COVID-19 from indoor settings, many of us are spending more time outdoors while still socially distancing. As we enjoy the outdoors, we need to protect ourselves from other viruses carried by mosquitoes by wearing insect repellent and getting rid of standing water around our homes.”
West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites. Symptoms of the virus include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches and can last from a few days to a few weeks, according to health officials. But four out of five people infected with West Nile won’t show any symptoms, according to IDPH.
People over age 60 and people with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from West Nile virus.
Health officials advise following the three R’s to prevent West Nile virus: reduce, repeal and report. Reduce the number of mosquitos by getting rid of outside containers that hold water; repel mosquitos by using insect repellant; and report areas where you see stagnant water for more than a week, such as roadside ditches and flooded yards, to local government agencies or health departments.
IDPH uses a surveillance system to monitor animals and insects that can potentially carry the virus, including dead crows, robins, blue jays, mosquitos and horses. If you see a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird, contact your local health department, officials advise. People with West Nile virus-like symptoms are also tested as part of the surveillance system.
For more information about West Nile virus, visit the IDPH website.