Thirty-two mosquito pools (or batches of mosquitoes), sampled throughout Lake County, have tested positive for West Nile virus, according to a press release from the Lake County Heath Department. The positive batches were primarily concentrated in southern Lake County.
Additionally, two birds collected in Round Lake and Long Grove tested positive for the virus. Although no human cases have been identified in the County thus far this year, health officials warn that the risk for West Nile virus transmission has significantly increased.
"The last time we had a similar high number of positive mosquito batches at this time of year was in 2005, which resulted in 11 human cases and one death," said Irene Pierce, the Health Department's Executive Director. "This makes it all the more important to protect yourself against mosquito bites by following the three R's - reduce your exposure to mosquitoes, repel them by wearing insect repellent, and report areas where mosquitoes typically breed."
Despite low levels of rain, mosquitoes are still active in many areas of the County. It is particularly important to practice mosquito bite prevention since Culex mosquitoes, the mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus, tend to thrive in dry conditions.
The Health Department maintains a West Nile virus hotline for county residents to report areas of stagnant water (which are conducive for mosquito breeding), or to obtain more information on the signs and symptoms of West Nile encephalitis. The West Nile hotline number is: (847) 377-8300.
Recommendations to prevent mosquito breeding include:
- Discard old tires, buckets, drums or any water holding containers. Poke holes in tires used as bumpers on docks
- Keep roof gutters and downspouts clear of debris
- Keep trash containers covered
- Empty plastic wading pools at least once a week and store indoors when not in use
- Drain unused swimming pools
- Fill in tree rot holes and hollow stumps that hold water
- Change the water in bird baths and plant urns at least once a week
- Store boats upside down or drain rainwater weekly
Recommendations to prevent mosquito bites include:
- Whenever possible, limit outdoor activity at dusk
- Wear light-colored clothing that minimizes exposed skin and provides some protection from mosquito bites
- Make sure door and window screens fit tightly and that all holes are repaired
- Apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
While most people infected with WNV have no symptoms of illness, some may become ill, usually three to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. In some individuals, particularly the elderly, the virus can cause muscle weakness, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, coma or death.
The Health Department conducts a multi-faceted mosquito surveillance program in Lake County. Beginning in late spring and continuing into the autumn, a series of traps are set around the county, including within the Lake County Forest Preserves. At each site a pool, or batch, of mosquitoes is tested weekly for West Nile virus. Areas of stagnant water are also investigated throughout the season for the presence of mosquito larvae, specifically from the Culex mosquito which is the primary carrier of West Nile in Illinois. Finally, the locations of dead birds are monitored to assist in the assessment of potential West Nile virus activity. The Health Department works closely with the municipalities, townships, and the Lake County Forest Preserve District in monitoring the mosquitoes that may pose a public health threat.
Information about WNV can be found on the Department's Web site at: http://www.lakecountyil.gov/Health/resources/Pages/WNV.aspx