Southern Seven Health Department (S7HD) has confirmed the first mosquitoes to test positive for West Nile Virus from the lower seven counties of the state in 2019.

S7HD staff collected the positive mosquitoes in Massac County in early July. No human cases of West Nile virus have been reported so far. The recent rains and flooding in this part of the state are leaving pools of water behind, which encourage mosquito harboring.

"As we start to see higher temperatures, we will start to see more West Nile virus activity," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, acting IDPH director. "While we see West Nile virus in Illinois ever year, it is important not to become complacent. It's easy to take precautions to protect yourself by wearing insect repellent and getting rid of standing water around your home."

Monitoring for West Nile virus in Illinois includes laboratory tests for mosquito batches, dead crows, blue jays, robins and other perching birds, as well as testing sick horses and humans with West Nile virus-like symptoms.

People who see a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird should contact their local health department, which will determine if the bird will be picked up for testing. West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a Culex pipiens mosquito, commonly called a house mosquito, that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.

Common symptoms include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. However, four out of five people infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms. In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis, encephalitis, or even death, can occur.

People older than 60 and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.

Precautions to "Fight the Bite" include practicing the three "R's" - reduce, repel and report.

• Reduce: Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut. Eliminate, or refresh each week, all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other containers.

• Repel: When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.

• Report: Report locations where water is sitting stagnant for more than a week, such as roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes. The local health department or city government may be able to add larvicide to the water, which will kill any mosquito eggs.

For more information, call Southern Seven Health Department at 618-634-2297 or visit the IDPH website.

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