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updated: 8/8/2012 1:38 PM

Take steps to avoid mosquito bites; West Nile activity is widespread

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David Hass

DUPAGE COUNTY--Since surveillance testing indicates West Nile Virus (WNV) is widespread in the area, the DuPage County Health Department reminds County residents that the risk of WNV is strong and may remain so for some time this season, thus the focus should be on personal protection.

The Health Department reports 89 mosquito pools have tested positive for WNV so far this season, compared to only one positive test during the same period last year. The first positive test was reported on May 18 this year, compared to July 15 last year.

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WNV is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. In the United States, most people are infected from June through September, and the number of these infections usually peaks in mid-August. Seasonal outbreaks often occur in local areas that can vary from year to year. Many factors impact when and where outbreaks occur, such as weather, numbers of mosquitoes that spread the virus, and human behavior.

The best way to prevent West Nile virus disease is to avoid mosquito bites:
• Use insect repellents when you go outdoors.
• Wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk.
• Install or repair screens on windows and doors. Use air conditioning, if you have it.
• Empty standing water from items outside your home such as flowerpots, buckets and kiddie pools.

Approximately one in five people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Less than 1 percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).

People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.
There are no medications to treat, or vaccines to prevent, West Nile virus infection. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks. In more severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care. Anyone who has symptoms that cause concern should contact a health care provider.

For more information on the DuPage County Health Department, follow us on Twitter @DuPageHD or become a fan on Facebook.

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