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Health department issues warning

PRINCETON — The Bureau/Putnam County Health Department has issued a health warning that the local region is at an increase risk for West Nile Virus activity after a horse in eastern Bureau County was diagnosed this week with the disease.

On Friday, health department administrator Diana Rawlings confirmed the diagnosis and said the horse had to be put down. The diagnoses of the animal has placed the entire area at an increase risk for human cases, she said.

Residents are urged to use insect repellent, even if they do not see mosquitoes, Rawlings said.

Other precautions include reducing exposure to mosquitoes by avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn; repelling mosquitoes by wearing shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors, in addition to insect repellent; and reporting areas of stagnant water to local health or municipal officials.

One misconception that she would like to clear up is the idea that West Nile Virus has been around the area long enough that people have built up an immunity to the disease. That is absolutely not true, she said.

In fact, studies show that only 5 to 7 percent of people have built up any immunity to the disease, which means 93 to 95 percent of people have not, Rawlings said.

Also, people should realize that more and more people are entering into the high risk level, of age 50 years and older, for West Nile Virus as the population ages, Rawlings said, adding with the hot weather the region has been experiencing and with the increased mosquito activity, there is a definite possibility to see human WNV cases.

As detailed by the Illinois Department of Public Health, symptoms of West Nile Virus include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. However, four out of five people infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms. In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis or encephalitis, or even death, can occur.

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