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West Nile virus at levels not seen since 2012, North Shore agency says

Chicago Tribune - 8/9/2018

Aug. 09--The risk of West Nile virus infection is at a level not seen since 2012 when an outbreak infected 290 Illinois residents, the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District announced Thursday.

The infection rate of mosquitoes collected in district traps during the past week has increased significantly, the district announced in a news release.

"The amount of virus we are detecting in mosquitoes is well above the historical average for this time of year and is also occurring earlier in the season than the average," Mark Clifton, the agency's director, said in the release. "These factors indicate that the risk for human West Nile virus infections is elevated and will likely remain elevated through the remainder of August."

West Nile virus is transmitted from birds through bites by the Culex pipiens mosquito. The first mosquitoes to test positive this year for West Nile were found in late May in Glenview and Morton Grove.

A Chicago woman in her 60s who became ill in mid-May was the first human case in the state, Department of Public Health officials reported in June.

Most people infected with the virus don't show symptoms, but those who have a reaction may experience fever, nausea, headaches and muscle aches for a few days or weeks. In severe cases, the virus can cause paralysis or death.

People older than 50 or who have weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness from the virus. Symptoms usually occur within three to 14 days after a bite from an inspected mosquito, according to the release.

The North Shore Mosquito Abatement District handles mosquito control efforts in communities including Evanston, Glencoe, Kenilworth, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Skokie, Winnetka, Wilmette and portions of Glenview, Deerfield and Niles, among other towns.

Officials say positive mosquito batches have been found in traps located in every community the district serves.

Experts recommend using insect repellent, avoiding the peak mosquito feeding times of dawn and dusk and wearing loose fitting clothing. Residents are encouraged to remove any items that can hold water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The North Shore Mosquito Abatement District plans to increase mosquito control operations throughout the district, according to the news release.


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