Metro-East News

First West Nile virus cases of season reported in metro-east

The first human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the metro-east, according to Illinois Department of Public Health statistics. Surveillance done by the state shows there have been human cases in St. Clair and Monroe counties.

Marsha Wild, director of infectious disease prevention services for the St. Clair County Health Department, said there has been one case of West Nile in the county. She said the case was reported in late August or early September. She said the person infected with the disease was released from the hospital. She said health privacy laws forbid her from discussing more about the person who contracted the disease.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, most people who are infected with West Nile show no signs or will experience mild illness, like a fever or a headache. Symptoms usually start to show between three and 15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito. Less than 1 percent of people infected with the virus will develop severe illness. People over 50 and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk to contract the virus. There is no vaccine for the disease.

Wild said this is the time of year when human cases of West Nile are typically reported. Last year, St. Clair County saw its highest West Nile count in more than a decade, with nine cases reported. The only year that topped that was in 2002, when 15 cases were reported in the first year the state kept county-by-county totals. Since 2010 there have been 16 reported cases total in St. Clair County. Madison County has only had West Nile reported once in that same time span, in 2015.

The state does surveys for birds and other animals who contract the mosquito-born infection from mid-May until mid-October every year. The virus can cause encephalitis in humans and other animals. The disease was first detected in the Chicago area in September 2001. The following year all but two of the Illinois’ 102 counties reported some type of West Nile activity.

In 2002, Illinois had 884 human cases of West Nile, which resulted in 67 deaths. Those totals were more than any other state in the nation.

So far this year, there have been 64 reported human cases of West Nile in Illinois with no deaths. More than half of the counties (52) in the state have reported some type of West Nile activity. Researches have found 63 birds who have tested positive for the virus with 2,324 positive mosquito batches. There has been one reported case in a horse or other animal this year.

Wild said there have been no reported cases of the Zika virus in St. Clair County. She said all of the Zika cases in Illinois, which there were 46 at last count, had come from people who traveled to Zika-infested areas. She said it was unlikely for the Zika virus to be transmitted locally because the mosquitoes that carry that virus do not make it to this area.

Don O'Brien: 618-239-2626, @DOBrienBND