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West Nile Virus and St. Louis encephalitis are both transmitted to humans from the bite of an infected mosquito
that has contracted the virus by feeding on an infected bird. In the summer of 2008, Winnebago County Health Department received 160 calls from the general public with questions on West Nile Virus and dead bird reports. Those calls resulted in 9 birds being sent to the state lab with 5 being confirmed as positively infected by West
Nile Virus.
 
Based on nationwide experience in Illinois over the previous 7 years of WNV presence in the United States, the peak period for WNV transmission, particularly to humans, has been from mid-July through the middle of October.
It is important to keep in mind again that this is influenced by many environmental factors that affect the viral amplification cycle (e.g., weather, host and vector densities, immune status and other characteristics). 
 
So far this season, the Winnebago County Health Department has not had a confirmed case of WNV in birds, mosquitoes or a human case.
 
“We are urging our residents to call the, the Winnebago County Health Department’s WNV phone line to report
the location and number of dead birds said Larry Swacina, Environmental Health Director. The list of reportable birds for WNV surveillance includes: crows, blue jays, grackles, starling, sparrows, finches, robins, cardinals, flycatchers, swallows, catbirds, mockingbirds, warblers, wrens, hawks, owls and gulls. The report line number to
call is 815720-4245. After calling in a report of a dead bird, please dispose of the bird yourself, if not picked up
for testing within 24 hours of your call, added Larry.
 
When calling the hotline to report dead birds, please leave the address, zip code, town, type and number of dead birds found. Please remember that birds must be freshly dead, no longer than 24 hours, and not have any maggots or other insects crawling on them. The Illinois Department of Public Health has limited the number of dead birds which can be submitted for WNV testing in 2009 by Winnebago and other counties. Therefore, not all dead birds
will be collected or tested. Only those of very good condition will be collected by the WCHD for in- house testing.
 
WCHD is urging citizens that may be experiencing a high number of mosquitoes on their properties to call 815-720-4245 and volunteer to have a mosquito trap placed in their yards for a period of 3 days for collecting gravid female mosquitoes. This will effectively contribute to the health department’s yearly surveillance and essentially widen the surveillance area.
 
Remember, dead birds cannot spread West Nile Virus, but it is advised to avoid barehanded contact with dead
birds and other animals since they carry a variety of germs. Please use a shovel, gloves or double-plastic bags
to place the carcass in garbage bag or can” added Larry. The Health Department has also opened a West Nile Virus Information line for residents who have questions or wish to speak to a health professional. That number
is 815-720-4240
 
The best protection against mosquito-borne encephalitis is to limit activities at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes that could carry the virus are most active. Protective clothing will ideally include lightweight, loose fitting, long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks. It's best to always apply a repellant containing DEET (25% for adults, 10% for children, and not recommended for infants) when going outdoors. Last year, CDC has added two new products containing picaridin and lemon of eucalyptus. Both ingredients have also proven effective as mosquito repellents.
 
Only about two people in 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, (symptoms include severe headache , stiff neck, mental confusion) and death is 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:
 
Alert health authorities to potential mosquito breeding sites in your area.
 
Avoid outdoor activities in the early morning and at dusk. Whenever outdoors between dusk and dawn, wear
shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Loose-fitting, light-colored clothing is best.
 
Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. An effective repellent will contain 25 to 35 percent of the active
ingredient DEET or picaridin or lemon of eucalyptus. Spray the repellent not only on exposed skin but also
on clothing. Consult a physician before using repellents on very young children.
 
Drain standing water in your yard at least once a week. Pour water from mosquito breeding sites, such as
flower pots, pet bowls, clogged rain gutters, swimming pool covers, boats, discarded tires, buckets, barrels,
cans, or similar items in which mosquitoes can lay eggs. For permanent standing pools of water, mosquito
larvicide can be used. The larvicide can be purchased from many retail stores selling garden supplies.
Please follow the manufacturer's recommendations for use.
 
Check screens on porches and patios for tears and other openings.
 
For more information on West Nile Virus, visit the following websites:
Illinois Department of Public Health at www.idph.state.il.us
Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov.ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm
Winnebago County Health Department at www.wchd.org
 
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