Lee County announces first positive West Nile Virus batch test

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LEE COUNTY — On September 10, 2020, the Lee County Health Department obtained their first positive West Nile Virus (WNV) mosquito batch tests of the season. The samples were taken in the Amboy/Woodhaven area. These tests confirm the continued presence of WNV in our area.  This news should not cause alarm, but rather serve as a reminder to use caution the remainder of your summer/early fall when outdoors.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a Culex mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Mosquito populations do not have to be large to transmit illness. 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.  

Only about two persons out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis and meningitis, and death are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include:

• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. Use prevention methods whenever mosquitoes are present.

• When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants. 

• Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.

• Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. 

In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes. 

Dead birds can be submitted to IDPH for West Nile Virus testing. “Eligible” birds are those that have been dead for less than 48 hours (have not started decomposing, no strong odor, no bloating, no maggots, eyes are not deflated or dried, etc.), have not been damaged by scavengers, and have no obvious cause of death. They must also be in one of the following categories:  crows, blue jays, house finches, house sparrows, and robins. Other eligible perching birds: blackbirds, bluebirds, catbirds, cardinals, chickadees, cowbirds, creepers, goldfinches, grackles, finches, flycatchers, larks, mockingbirds, nuthatches, orioles, purple martins, sparrows (many species), starlings, swallows, tanagers, thrushes, warblers (many species), cedar waxwings, and wrens.  Hawks and owls may also be submitted. If you have a dead bird acceptable for testing, call Lee County Animal Control at 815-284-3833.

Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the state health department’s website at www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm or people can call the West Nile Virus Hotline at 866-369-9710 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You may also contact the Lee County Health Department at 815-284-3371 for additional information.