West Nile Virus can bite close to home

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West Nile Virus can bite close to home

West Nile Virus (WNV), which was discovered in East Africa in the late 1930s, found its way to the United States in 1999. Since then, the mosquito-borne illness continues to exist throughout the country.

WNV can cause a fatal neurological disease in humans. However, approximately 80 percent of people infected will not show any symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. About 1 in 5 people who are infected may develop a fever and other symptoms, including headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.

The virus is transmitted to people and animals through the bite of an infected female mosquito. WNV is maintained in nature in a cycle involving transmission between birds and mosquitoes. To date, no human-to-human transmission of WNV through casual contact has been documented, the World Health Organization states.

Cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall in mild weather zones.

As of July 12, 2022, 11 of Illinois’ 102 counties have reported at least one mosquito infected with WNV, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. One positive mosquito case has been reported in Edgar County. However, no cases of human infection have been reported in Illinois so far this year.

In Indiana, mosquito infection has been reported in two of the state’s 92 counties as of July 12, 2022, according to the Indiana Department of Health. One human case has been reported in northwest Lake County.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WNV is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the US. Vaccines are available for use in horses. However, there are no vaccines to prevent, or medications to treat, WNV in people.

To reduce the risk of WNV, the CDC recommends using insect repellent, and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent mosquito bites. Additionally, standing water should be removed where mosquitoes breed, such as in roof gutters, unused swimming pools, birdbaths, pet bowls, old tires, and unused containers.