Metro-East News

West Nile virus found in St. Clair County, health department says

The first group of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus were found in St. Clair County, according to the county health department.

The virus, which is spread through mosquito bites, is rare for humans to contract, but it can be deadly. In 2017, 90 people in Illinois were infected with it, one of whom was in St. Clair County.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported its first confirmed human case for 2018 in Illinois, according to the health department. A Chicago resident in her mid-60s became ill in mid-May.

Most people won't experience any symptoms, but if they do, they can include fever, nausea, headaches and muscle aches. In rare cases, meningitis, encephalitis or death can occur.

This year, 11 of 102 Illinois counties have reported positive mosquito samples or birds. Mosquitoes pick up the disease by feeding on infected birds, and the St. Clair County Health Department encourages people to report all dead perching birds to the department at 618-233-7769. Those in Centreville, Canteen, Stites and East St. Louis townships should contact the East Side Health District at 618-271-8722.

To best prevent the disease, the health department recommends reducing the amount of mosquitoes around the home and neighborhood. Tips to reduce the bugs include:

Dumping out any standing water

Cleaning rain gutters and downspouts

Change bird bath or drip tray water at least once a week

Empty plastic wading pools at least once a week, and store it inside when it's not in use

Empty pet water bowls every day

Keep weeds and tall grass cut short

To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, officials recommend wearing long pants and shirts with tightly woven materials to keep the bugs away from the skin, and wearing bug spray.