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First Mosquitoes Found With West Nile in Evanston

Public health officials say the hot, dry weather promotes breeding by mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus.

A batch of mosquitoes collected in Evanston yesterday has tested positive for the West Nile Virus, according to the city’s health department. 

The North Shore Mosquito Abatement District began testing mosquitoes in Evanston for the virus in April, and will continue to test mosquitoes throughout the summer, according to a release from the city. The virus is transmitted through the bite of mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds. 

Residents are advised to contact the Evanston Health Department at 3-1-1 or health@cityofevanston.org to report a sick or dying crow, robin or other perching bird. Health officials will determine whether or not the bird needs to be tested for the virus.

The type of mosquito that carries West Nile Virus is called the Culex mosquito, or “house mosquito,” according to David Zazra, communications manager for the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District. The first human case occurred in Illinois in 2002, when the virus struck more than 800 individuals. It flared up again in 2005 and 2006, when the state recorded 252 cases and 12 deaths and 215 cases and 10 deaths, respectively.

Outbreaks of the disease are particularly common in northern Cook County, because the climate is “ideal” for the mosquito, Zazra In particular, hot, dry weather is the perfect condition for breeding, Zazra said—exactly the weather northern Illinois is experiencing right now.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 80 percent of people infected by West Nile Virus do not show any symptoms. Milder symptoms, including fever, headache, body aches, nausea and vomiting, are common among the roughly 20 percent who do show symptoms.

While the vast majority of infected people show no symptoms, about one in 150 may develop severe symptoms. These can include high fever, disorientation, coma, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis, according to the CDC.

Adults older than 50 are more at risk of developing serious symptoms, and should be more cautious about avoiding mosquito bites.

When it comes to personal protection, health officials boil it down to two words: wear repellent.

"To protect yourself against illness, wear insect repellent and get rid of any stagnant water around your home to reduce the number of mosquitoes," Evanston Health Department Director Evonda Thomas said in a press release. Because culex mosquitoes are “container breeders,” they prefer to breed in small pools of water.

Residents can prevent standing water from collecting on their property by cleaning catch basins and gutters and storing buckets upside down. A complete list of tips to avoid mosquitoes from breeding on your property can be found on the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District website.

The city of Evanston also offers these tips:

• 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 includes 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 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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