West Nile Virus season is here again.
The Peoria City/County Health Department has reminded residents that warmer temperatures and standing water from recent rains can create the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus.
Anyone can get West Nile Virus infection, however, people over 50 years of age and those with weakened immune systems have the highest risk of developing a severe illness.
Common symptoms include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. Health Department officials say four out of five people infected with West Nile Virus will not show any symptoms, but in rare cases, severe illness including meningitis or encephalitis, or even death, can occur.
“We’re already treated some areas for nuisance mosquitoes that appear after heavy rains,” said Wil Hayes, Director of Environmental Health at the Peoria City/County Health Department, “but these mosquitoes don’t carry the West Nile Virus that can cause illness.”
“Most of the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus we are hearing about are not native to Illinois, so the risk of Illinois mosquitoes transmitting Zika is very low.”
“Our warmer weather, combined with standing waters from spring rains, create the ideal breeding conditions for the Culex or common house mosquito that can carry West Nile Virus,” Hayes said, “so we are beginning to monitor for those mosquitoes because they are native here to Illinois.”
Health Department staff will be setting mosquito traps throughout Peoria County to watch for areas of breeding and then testing those mosquitoes for West Nile Virus.
“We want the public to be aware that dead birds can also be infected with West Nile Virus,” Hayes said, “so do not handle dead birds with your bare hands. Double wrap dead birds in plastic garbage bags prior to disposal.”
Hayes says prevention is the key and reminds residents to practice the “Three R’s – reduce, repel and report.”
· REDUCE exposure – Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. 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, especially at night. Eliminate all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles.
· REPEL – When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a 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 – In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
More information about mosquitoes, West Nile Virus and other public health issues can be found here.
(Photos: Peoria City/County Health Department)