A Kankakee County resident has died of West Nile virus, the first Illinois resident to die of the mosquito-borne illness this year.
The Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed that the patient tested positive for West Nile before his or her death earlier this month. Director Nirav Shah said although weather is getting cooler, West Nile is still a concern.
“It’s important for everyone to continue taking precautions like using insect repellent, wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, and staying indoors between dusk and dawn,” Shah said.
Currently 37 people in Illinois are infected with West Nile. Last year 155 people were infected, and six died. West Nile first showed up in the U.S. in 1999 and came to Illinois in 2001. By the end of 2002, Illinois had seen 884 cases with 67 deaths, the highest rate in the nation, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
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Mosquitoes carry the virus and transmit it through their bite. Symptoms include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches that last from a few days to a few weeks. Four out of five infected with the virus will not show any symptoms at all, but in rare cases, a severe infection will cause meningitis, encephalitis or even death. People over age 50 and those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk.
To find out more about West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, go to the IDPH West Nile virus web site or contact the Illinois Department of Public Health West Nile virus information hotline at 866-369-9710 during regular business hours.
IDPH Hints to Avoid West Nile
• Minimize being outdoors when mosquitoes transmitting West Nile virus are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
• When outdoors, 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, according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
• Eliminate all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, such as old tires, buckets and other receptacles, or refresh the water in bird baths, flowerpots and wading pools every couple days.