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First human case of WNV confirmed in Illinois

PRINCETON — The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has confirmed the first human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Illinois for 2014.

On Monday, IDPH director LaMar Hasbrouck said the victim was a woman in her 70s who became ill in July, as reported by the Chicago Department of Public Health. This first human case is a good reminder that people still need to take precautions against WNV-infected mosquitoes, Hasbrouck said.

Bureau/Putnam County Health Department Director of Health Protection Kurt Kuchle said the local health department is continuing its surveillance through the collection of dead birds and mosquito samples.

“Historically the peak season for WNV is July 20 to Aug. 20, with human cases starting then going into September. But, with the first human case just now reported, that indicates this year’s weather has delayed the peak exposure dates and thus the peak for human cases,” Kuchle said Tuesday.

The local health department has sent three dead birds for testing by the state lab, Kuchle said. Two of the birds were from Bureau County, one was from Putnam County. All three tested negative for WNV.

Rural counties have a quota of five birds each, as set by the IDPH to assure complete surveillance of the entire geography of the state, Kuchle said. Bird testing is also one of the requirements for a grant received by the health department for funding a WNV surveillance program, he said.

As far as mosquito testing samples, the local health department has done 15 mosquito pool tests from Bureau County and six from Putnam County this season, Kuchle said. The local health department has three mosquito traps in Bureau County and one in Putnam County. Mosquito testing will end sometime in September, or with the first hard frost, he said.

Looking at the extent of mosquito activity this year, Kuchle said history shows hot dry weather increases the number of container breeding mosquitoes, which are the ones what carry the virus. However, the number of mosquitoes varies by location, he said.

According to the IDPH, West Nile Virus has been reported in birds, mosquitoes and/or human case in 32 counties in Illinois so far this year. At this time last year, the virus was reported in 49 counties.

Looking ahead to coming weeks, Kuchle said area residents should continue to practice the IDPH recommended 3R precautions (Reduce, Repell, Report) to limit exposure to infected mosquitoes. Residents should reduce exposure by avoiding being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, making sure doors and window have tight fitting screens, and eliminating sources of standing water where mosquitoes can bread.

People should also repell mosquitoes by wearing shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors and applying insect repellent that containt DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535.

As the final 3R recommendation, people should also contact their local municipal government/health department to report dead birds or areas of stagnant water, Kuchle said.

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