A Will County resident who first became ill in late August is the first person known to have died from the West Nile virus in Illinois this year, according to state health officials.
“Although we are already into fall, we are expecting a warm weekend and West Nile virus remains a risk until the first hard frost,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “It’s important for everyone to continue taking precautions such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, and staying indoors between dusk and dawn.”
People over age 50 and those with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of developing severe illness from the virus, which is transmitted through mosquito bites. In rare cases, meningitis, encephalitis, or even death can occur, according to state health officials.
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.
So far this year, 40 people have contracted the virus in Illinois, according to 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, repel 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.