With only three Kane County deaths from West Nile in the past decade, the virus has slipped into the realm of being a seldom and mostly silent summer killer. Public health officials would like to keep it that way as monitoring infected mosquitoes is under way.
The year 2010 was the last time a human resident of Kane County died from West Nile. Last year, there was only one confirmed human case of the virus in Kane County. That person survived, and only three other Illinois residents outside of Kane County died from West Nile. Indeed, only 20 percent of people infected with the virus will even show symptoms, health officials said. Symptoms include high fever, headache, stiff neck, stupor, tremors, vision loss and numbness. If these symptoms last several weeks they can cause permanent impacts to a person's nerve system or lead to death.
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The Culex mosquito spreads the virus to humans through its bite. Unlike the more common mosquito, the smaller Culex needs long periods of dry, hot weather to breed, officials said.
Despite a relatively wet month, the Kane County Health Department's Environmental Health staff established 10 mosquito trap sites throughout the county to begin monitoring for West Nile. The traps are located in Burlington, Campton Hills, Carpentersville, the west sides of Sleepy Hollow and Elgin, Big Rock, Elburn, Montgomery and the east sides of Batavia and Aurora.
The traps contain a substance that acts almost like a catnip for mosquitoes. Health department staff members collect the traps twice a week to test the batches for West Nile. Four mosquito batches tested positive for West Nile in Kane County last year. That's a significant drop from the 26 batches that tested positive in 2010.
Some birds, such as crows, blue jays and robins are also potential West Nile victims. No birds were found to have West Nile in Kane County last year.
Residents should still report dead birds to the health department for possible West Nile testing. Department staff members are also available to answer any West Nile questions residents may have at (630) 444-3040.