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Positive for West Nile Virus

First positives in Illinois found

Published: Monday, June 16, 2014 3:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, June 16, 2014 3:43 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON — The Bureau/Putnam County Health Department continues its West Nile Virus (WNV) surveillance, noting the first WNV positive bird and mosquito batch have been confirmed in Illinois for the 2014 season.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has announced Henry County Health Department employees collected a positive bird on May 29 in Colona, and Madison County Health Department employees collected a positive mosquito batch on May 30 in Godfrey.

Bureau/Putnam County Health Department Director of Health Protection Kurt Kuchle reported the local health department has sent a dead bird from Granville to the state lab for testing. However, health department staff member Andy Swartz, who oversees the local WNV surveillance program, said the bird smelled a little, so he’s not sure if the state will test it because submitted birds have to be fresh.

Four mosquito traps have been set out in Putnam and Bureau counties, but the health department will need to replace one of the traps which isn’t working well, Kuchle said. The health department tries to collect the mosquitoes twice a week, once everything is up and running. At one collection time, one of the Bureau traps had five mosquitoes and the other trap had hundreds, he said.

Though dead birds are sent to a state lab for testing, the mosquito collections are tested at the local health department using Vec-Test Kits. Basically, the staff grinds up the mosquitoes and then uses a test strip on the liquid once the solids are settled out in the centrifuge. The health department will not test again until it gets another big catch, so several separate tests can be done at one setting. The first mosquito results should be available in a few days. 

As far as the level of mosquito/WNV activity so far this year, Kuchle said the degree of mosquito activity probably depends upon a person’s location. Personally, he hasn’t been bitten yet, and he gardens continuously.

However, people need to realize mosquito activity and West Nile activity are really two different things. Lots of swarming biting mosquitoes may be floodwater mosquitoes which do not carry the virus.

Based on the IDPH reports of only a few birds and mosquitoes testing positive so far this year for WNV, and with it being almost late June, he would say it’s been a slow start for West Nile activity, Kuchle said. However, it won’t matter once it gets hot and dry; West Nile will increase. But you just never know how high the peak of activity will be or how many people will be affected from year to year, he said.

Kuchle recommended area residents take the same precautions against WNV as in previous years, including reducing exposure to mosquitoes by avoiding being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, making sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens, and eliminating all sources of standing water. A warm bucket of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes a week, he said.

Also, when people are outdoors, they should wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, Kuchle said.

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