A Cook County man in his 80s who became ill in mid-June is the first person known to have contracted the West Nile virus in Illinois this year, according to state health officials.
People over age 60 and those with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of developing severe illness from the virus, which is transmitted through mosquito bites.
“While we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also remember to take steps to protect our health from other illnesses,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a statement. “West Nile virus is something we see every year in Illinois and it is important people take steps to prevent mosquito bites and the viruses they carry by wearing insect repellent and getting rid of standing water around their homes.”
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 the IDPH.
In 2020, 42 people contracted the virus and four died, according to state health officials, who say the number of cases in humans is underreported.
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 file reports to local government agencies or health departments when you see areas with stagnant water for more than a week, such as roadside ditches and flooded yards.
For more information about West Nile virus, visit the IDPH website.