Southern Seven Health Department (S7HD) reported last month the first case of West Nile Virus in southern Illinois was detected in a mosquito in Massac County.

Although there are currently no known cases of West Nile reported in people of the area, Southern Seven urges everyone to continue to take precautions.

West Nile virus is transmitted to birds through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected by biting infected birds.

Some birds that are predators, such as hawks and owls, or scavengers, such as crows, may become infected after eating sick or dead birds that were already infected with West Nile virus.

If a resident finds a bird that has recently died, meaning still has eyes intact, and the bird appears to have died from natural causes, call S7HD at 618-634-2297.

S7HD staff will ask the individual some questions and potentially may make arrangements to pick up the bird. If they collect the bird, it will be sent to the state lab to test for West Nile Virus (WNV)

WNV is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. It is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall.

There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV in people.

Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not feel sick. About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About 1 out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.

A person can reduce risk of WNV by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent mosquito bites.

For more information, call B.J. Newbury, S7HD environmental health services director, at 618-634-2297, Ext. 110 or go to southern.7.org.

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