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West Nile Threat Remains High
Mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus are increasing

Thursday, July 21, 2005
Cook County Dept. of Public Health

Media contact, Kitty Loewy, 708-492-2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                         

Don’t be complacent about prevention. “Now is the time to be wearing repellent, limiting your hours outside in the evening when mosquito activity is heaviest and making sure there is no standing water on your property,” said John H. Stroger, Jr., President of the Board of Cook County Commissioners.

President Stroger and the Cook County Department of Public Health are hoping the public gets that message. “It may seem as though there are few mosquitoes biting this season, but, our surveillance shows that the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus are out there,” said CCDPH chief operating officer, Stephen A. Martin, Jr., Ph.D, M.P.H.

According to the surveillance done by the Mosquito Abatement Districts of Cook County (MAD’s) and CCDPH, almost 120 positive culex mosquito samples have been identified as carriers of WNV.  During mosquito season, May through October, the health department and the MADS routinely survey areas with mosquito traps to determine the presence of WNV.
The culex mosquito, also known as the house mosquito, thrives in both urban and suburban environments. The female mosquitoes lay their eggs in buckets, tin cans, tires, storm drains, catch basins, unused swimming pools or birdbaths which hold stagnant water. Eventually the larvae develop into adults capable of spreading the virus.

“It is important that residents do not become complacent.  The number of West Nile virus positive birds and mosquito pools are increasing throughout the County.  During periods of low rainfall and high temperatures, such as what we are seeing now, the life cycle of the house mosquito is accelerated. Heat drives the process,” added Dr. Martin.

In addition to the positive mosquito samples, six birds in suburban Cook County have tested positive for the virus, out of twenty-five submitted.

WNV is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.  Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms may include fever, headache and body aches.

Anyone who develops symptoms such as high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, severe headaches or stiff neck should see a doctor immediately. These symptoms may indicate meningitis or encephalitis, two potentially life-threatening illnesses. Diagnosis is made through a blood test, but no specific medication exists to treat or cure the disease.

Follow these suggestions to avoid being bitten:
• Never allow mosquitoes to breed. Check around the outside of your home for containers that could hold water. Empty the water regularly or make sure the container is covered.
• Apply mosquito repellent containing 10 – 30% DEET primarily to clothing.  This year, in addition to DEET, the CDC is recommending products containing picaridin and lemon of eucalyptus. Both have proven to be effective mosquito repellents. Always follow the directions on the container.                                                
• Limit time outdoors when mosquito activity is heaviest (dusk through dawn).
• Keep skin covered if outdoors between dusk and dawn. Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks.
WNV was first detected in birds in Cook County during September of 2001. Human illness in Illinois occurred in the summer of 2002, sickening 884 people statewide and causing 64 deaths, 38 of them in Chicago and suburban Cook County. In the summers of 2003 and 2004, a total of 28 people fell ill in suburban Cook County, with two deaths reported. However, 2003 and 2004 were unusually cool summers that slowed the development of the house mosquito.
For more WNV prevention information or to report a dead bird or animal, call CCDPH at 708-492-2650, or visit these sites:                                                                                                                      
The Illinois Department of Public Health has established a toll-free information line on WNV: 866-369-9710.



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