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It’s West Nile season

It’s that time of year again. High summer temperatures and low rainfall provide favorable conditions for the house mosquito (Culex pipiens) and related species to transmit West Nile Virus (WNV) and Saint Louis encephalitis (SLE).

The mosquito collection and testing portion of the Bureau and Putnam County Health Department West Nile Virus Surveillance Program began on May 19. The program consists of testing mosquitoes for West Nile Virus. Mosquitoes will be collected from traps placed in the vicinity of public access/gathering areas in both Bureau and Putnam Counties.

The state of Illinois has directed local health departments to start to collect birds beginning in May. This year the health department would like to test five birds from each county. The public is encouraged to help locate birds that may have died from West Nile Virus. Sick birds or birds dead less than 12 hours may be eligible for testing. To submit a bird, please the health department at 815-872-5091, ext. 216, to determine if the bird is eligible before you touch or handle the bird.

In order to qualify for testing, birds must meet these guidelines:

Birds must be dead less than 12 hours, and the carcass must not have obvious signs of trauma (struck by a vehicle, window or animal attack), decay, or strong odor. Birds dying from WNV are usually found singly, scattered over a wide area. In contrast, birds that die from other causes (storm mortality, food poisoning, toxicants) often die in groups or clusters.

Only adults should handle dead birds. Pick the bird up with gloves, tongs or a shovel. If you do not have gloves, insert your hand into a plastic bag like it is a glove, grasp the bird carefully and invert the bag over the bird. Each bird should be double-bagged in clear plastic bags.

If the bird will not be submitted for testing, place the bagged bird in the trash or bury it away from water sources. After disposal of the bird, wash your hands with soap and water.

The health department urges the public to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Please take these common sense precautions to minimize mosquito bites.

• Avoid being outdoors at night and early morning, when mosquitoes are active.

• If you must go outdoors during these times wear light colored clothing and apply insect repellent.

• Ensure that doors and windows have tight, properly fitting screens.

• Eliminate all sources of standing water that support mosquito breeding (bird baths, wading pools and flowerpots, tires, cans, buckets, clogged gutters and abandoned swimming pools) on your property. This is especially important because the mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus breed in shallow containers of stagnant water.

For additional information regarding West Nile Virus call the health department at 815-872-5091, the Illinois Department of Public Health West Nile Virus Hotline at 866-369-9710 or go to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s West Nile Virus website:

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