A Des Plaines woman and a Rolling Meadows woman are being treated for West Nile virus, according to a spokesperson at the Cook County Department of Health, the Associated Press reported.
The two cases are the first human infections reported in Cook County in 2012.
Sandra Martell, interim chief operating officer of the CCDPH, stated in a press release, while residents are focused on protecting themselves from the extreme heat, they may not be thinking about West Nile virus.
“However, it’s the extreme heat and dry weather that is increasing the risk of infection,” Martell stated. “The Culex mosquito, the primary carrier of West Nile virus in our region, breeds outdoors in very small amounts of water during the hot, dry heat so residents need to take precautions.”
In 2011, 22 of the 34 West Nile virus cases in Illinois were reported in Cook County, according to data collected by the United States Global Survey. The majority occurred in August and September.
West Nile virus is a potentially serious illness, transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Those infected experience severe, mild and no symptoms, according to the Center for Disease Control. Most people do not exhibit any symptoms.
Symptoms including fever, headache and body aches can occur three to 15 days after an infected mosquito bite, according to the CCDPH.
Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis, according to the CDC. Symptoms can last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
Age is a risk factor for West Nile virus. People over the age of 50 are at a higher risk for complications from encephalitis and meningitis, the most serious manifestations of the disease, according to the CDC.
Preventative measures include (source: CDC):
- Get rid of standing water around your home in pet bowls, flowerpots, old tires, baby pools and toys. Water allowed to stagnate for three to four days becomes a breeding ground for mosquitos.
- Check doors and windows have tightly-fitting screens, and repair tears or other openings.
- Keep gutters clean and free of debris, and weeds and grass cut short.
- Cover skin with lightly-colored, lose-fitting clothing when outdoors between dusk and dawn.
- Use mosquito repellent with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
West Nile stays alive in nature when mosquitos feed on dead birds infected with the virus. Horses can also become infected by mosquito bites. No cases of the virus being transmitted from animal to human, or from human to human, have been reported.
Two ways scientists track the virus is by testing pools of water and dead birds.
Mosquito pools in 48 communities throughout suburban Cook County recently tested positive for the virus, according to the CCDPH.
Five of the 21 dead bird infections reported in the state this year, as of July 24, were in Cook County, according to data collected by the United States Global Survey. In 2011 there were 21 dead bird infections found in Illinois; 15 were reported in Cook County.
The CCDPH asks residents to report dead perching birds including blue jays and robins so they can be tested for West Nile virus. Birds can be reported by calling (708) 633-8025.