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updated: 5/21/2012 6:06 AM

Health department activates West Nile hotline

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Lake County Health Department submission

The Lake County Health Department is urging residents to protect themselves against West Nile virus, which is contracted from the bite of infected mosquitoes.

"While no human cases of the disease were reported in Lake County last year, several cases were reported in northeast Illinois, which serves as a reminder that it is still important for residents to protect themselves against West Nile virus," said Irene Pierce, the Health Department's Executive Director.

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The Health Department has reactivated the West Nile virus hotline for county residents to report dead birds, report areas of stagnant water (which are conducive to mosquito breeding), or to obtain more information on the signs and symptoms of West Nile encephalitis. The West Nile virus hotline number is (847) 377-8300.

The Health Department has begun collecting a limited number of dead birds for testing and will contact you if the bird you report is needed for testing.

Dead birds cannot spread West Nile virus.

The information residents provide will be used to monitor West Nile virus in the county and identify any problem areas.

The Health Department is operating 22 mosquito monitoring sites and reviewing data from other sites throughout the county to identify "hot spots" for the mosquito that carries WNV.

The department will also conduct investigations to identify potential mosquito breeding areas in and around underdeveloped or abandoned residential building sites and swimming pools in certain areas of the county.

Recommendations to prevent mosquito breeding include:

• Discard old tires, buckets, drums or any water holding containers. Poke holes in tires used as bumpers at docks.

• Keep roof gutters and downspouts clear of debris.

• Keep trash containers covered.

• Empty plastic wading pools at least once a week and store indoors when not in use.

• Drain unused swimming pools.

• Fill in tree rot holes and remove hollow stumps that hold water.

• Change the water in bird baths and plant urns at least once a week.

• Store boats upside down or drain rainwater weekly.

While most people infected with WNV have no symptoms of illness, some may become ill, usually three to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus may occasionally cause serious complications. In some individuals, particularly the elderly, the virus can cause muscle weakness, stiff neck, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, coma or death.

Information about the virus and tips to protect yourself from mosquito bites are available at www.lakecountyil.gov/Health/resources/Pages/WNV.aspx.

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