Six cases of West Nile Virus have been confirmed in Evanston as of Friday afternoon, up from zero in 2011, according to the city’s Health Department.
Evanston’s numbers fall in line with a nationwide record for cases of West Nile Virus. There have been more cases of the virus identified at this point in August than there ever have been since the virus was first isolated in the country in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Some 1,118 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. so far, with the majority in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.
There were 21 cases confirmed in Illinois as of Aug. 21, the CDC reports. Those cases have been clustered in the Chicago area, with 13 human cases in Cook County. The first case was reported July 24, about one month earlier than in previous years. ().
“We urge people to continue to protect themselves by following the three R’s – reduce exposure to mosquitoes, repel them by wearing insect repellent, and report areas where mosquitoes typically breed,” Evanston Health Director Evonda Thomas said in a press release.
City officials will hand out information on how to prevent the virus, along with bug repellant, at three upcoming city-sponsored Starlight Movies. Those are scheduled for Aug. 25 at and Aug. 29 and Sept. 8 at .
The hot, dry summer weather has increased the prevalence of mosquitoes and the risk of West Nile virus, according to health officials. The best way to prevent the disease is to reduce the number of mosquitoes by targeting the standing water in which they like to breed, Thomas said. Birdbaths, gutters and children’s toys can all serve as breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry the virus.
The virus is transmitted when a mosquito that has been feeding on an infected bird goes on to bite a human being. Most people who are bit by an infected mosquito have no symptoms, but a few may become sick three to 15 days after being bit, according to health officials.
Symptoms may include fever, headache and body aches, and in rare cases, more serious outcomes such as encephalitis, meningitis or even death are possible. People over the age of 50 are most susceptible, health officials say.
The Health Department offers the following precautions for residents:
- Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
- 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.
- 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 that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flower pots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. Email the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District at NSMAD or call 847-446-9434 to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
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