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West Nile virus turns up in 42 Illinois counties

Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

Illinois again is buzzing with reports of West Nile virus, as the mosquito-driven disease has been found in 42 counties statewide.

By this time last year, 15 counties reported West Nile cases. In 2002, when Illinois led the nation in cases, 50 counties reported West Nile as of Aug. 1.

Half of all birds examined by Cook County officials tested positive for West Nile, and "it would not surprise us to see human cases soon," said Cook County Public Health Department spokeswoman Kitty Loewy. The virus is spread when mosquitoes bite infected birds and then bite humans.

Three Illinoisans outside of Cook County have been diagnosed with the sometimes fatal disease this year -- the latest a 14-year-old St. Clair County boy -- but speculation is that many more will come.

"It's starting to shape up similar to that '02 season we had," said Mike Szyska, director of the Wheeling-based Northwest Mosquito Abatement District.

Last year there were 12 reported human cases of West Nile, but last year's cooler temperatures weren't conducive to mosquito production, Szyska said. But 884 people got sick and 64 died in 2002 -- which saw weather conditions similar to this summer.

 

 



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