Illinois reports first West Nile virus positive mosquitoes

The Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed on Monday the first batch of West Nile virus positive mosquitoes in Illinois in 2013.

Employees with the Des Plaines Valley Mosquito Abatement District collected a positive mosquito sample on May 21 from Hillside in Cook County. Last year, the first West Nile virus positive test was in a crow collected on May 16 by the Chicago Department of Public Health.

"Although we have been seeing a lot of what we call 'nuisance' mosquitoes due to the flooding, those mosquitoes typically do not carry West Nile virus," LaMar Hasbrouck, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. "We are now starting to see Culex mosquitoes, which often do carry disease. Remember, as we head into the summer months, to protect yourself by wearing insect repellent and taking other precautions."

In 2012, 55 counties in Illinois reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito, bird or human case. During the 2012 season, the IDPH reported its second highest number of West Nile virus human cases ever recorded with 290 cases and 12 deaths. There are no reported human cases of West Nile this season.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that picked up the virus by feeding on infected animals. Symptoms include muscle aches, headache, nausea and fever. In rare cases, infected individuals can experience meningitis, encephalitis or death. Severe illness is more likely in individuals over 50 years of age.

West Nile disease can be prevented by reducing exposure to mosquitoes between dawn and dusk, repelling mosquitoes with clothing and repellent and reporting areas of stagnant water to organized mosquito control programs.