The first West Nile virus fatality in nearly two years has been announced in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that a DuPage County woman is her 80's, diagnosed in late August, has died, according to a department news release.
In all, 14 human cases of West Nile disease in humans have been reported to the state public health department this year since the first was diagnosed August 31st, also in DuPage County.
West Nile virus activity across the state is noted with "very high infection rates in mosquitoes in the northeastern part of the state," according to director of the Department of Public Health, Dr. Damon T. Arnold. The threat remains despite cooler early fall temperatures.
Confirmed West Nile Contamination
So far, 29 counties have confirmed mosquito batches, birds, or humans infected with West Nile virus. The first positive result this year was reported May 13th in two tested birds, one taken in Carroll County and the other in St. Clair County, across from St Louis, MO. Last year, there were five human cases of West Nile disease and no deaths.
In 2009, 36 of Illinois' 102 counties reported West Nile contamination in birds, mosquitoes, horses, or humans.
West Nile's Spread
Most at risk are senior citizens over the age of 50 and those with weakened immune systems. The West Nile virus is spread through the bite of a mosquito, possibly contaminated by feeding on an infected bird. Only about two people in 10 bitten by the mosquito experience any illness and when they do, it's usually pretty mild.
Mild symptoms are in the form of fever, headache, and body ache. However, serious illness, up to encephalitis and meningitis, and ultimately death, are possibilities.
Recommended prevention methods include avoid being outdoors at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active, make sure exposed skin is covered as well as possible and make liberal use of insect repellent containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, or IR 3535, and make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens.
Yards around homes should have all sources of standing water drained, including ditches, old tires, wading pools, and other sources. Even a rusty tin can filled with stagnant water can breed up a hatch of mosquitoes in a few days time. Water in bird baths and pet food and water dishes should be changed frequently according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which has more information available on protection at its website.
More information on West Nile is also available on the Illinois Department of Public Health website.
Compared to the 14 cases in Illinois and one fatality,the CDC is reporting (as of September 22, 2010) 381 cases of West Nile disease and 12 fatalities nationally.