Southern Seven Health Department to begin annual testing for West Nile virus in area
Even as the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Southern Seven Health Department has announced plans to begin annual testing for the West Nile virus in the region.
The health department said that West Nile virus, WNV, is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States.
There are no vaccines to prevent or specific medications to treat WNV in people.
The health department noted there are steps people can take to prevent contracting the disease.
Beginning the week of May 18, Southern Seven Health Department plans to begin its annual trapping of mosquitoes throughout the lower seven counties in Illinois, including Union County.
Trapping is scheduled to continue in the region through fall.
In 2019, Southern Seven reported positive WNV pools in Union and Massac counties.
A pool is the number of mosquitoes in one net collection. The department collected nets once a week from each of the counties.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a Culex pipiens mosquito, commonly called a house mosquito, that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.
Monitoring for WNV in Illinois includes laboratory tests for mosquito batches, dead crows, blue jays, robins and other perching birds, as well as testing sick horses and humans with West Nile virus-like symptoms.
People who see a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird are advised to contact their local health department, which will determine if the bird will be picked up for testing.
The virus is not spread through coughing, sneezing or touching.
The virus is not spread by touching live or dead animals; however, the health department encourages people to avoid bare-handed contact when touching any dead animal.
If you are disposing of a dead bird, use gloves or double plastic bags to place the carcass in a garbage can, the health department advised.
The virus also cannot be spread through eating infected birds or animals. Always follow instructions for fully cooking meat from either birds or mammals, the health department stated.
Common symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches.
Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. However, four out of five people infected with WNV will not show any symptoms.
In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis, encephalitis or even death can occur.
People over the age of 60 and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness from the virus.
If you have symptoms of West Nile virus, contact your physician immediately, the health department said.
The health department explained there are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV in people.
People can reduce your risk of WNV by following the three “R’s”: Reduce, Repel and Report.
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.
Eliminate, or refresh each week, all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other containers.
When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a light-colored, 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.
Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus, OLE, or para-menthane-diol, PMD, on children under 3 years old.
Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts or irritated skin. Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
Report locations where you see water sitting stagnant for more than a week such as roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
The local health department or city government may be able to add larvicide to the water, which will kill any mosquito eggs.
For more information, call Southern Seven Health Department environmental health services director Miranda Adams at 618-634-2297, extension 114, or visit www.southern7.org.