As risk grows regionally, Lake County reports first human West Nile case
With health officials across the Chicago area warning of increased dangers of West Nile virus this summer, a Buffalo Grove man has been confirmed as Lake County's first human case of the year.
With cases in animals on a record pace this summer, it may not be the last.
Symptoms of West Nile virus
Most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms of illness, some may become ill, usually three to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.
The disease may cause:
• Muscle weakness
• Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
• Stiff neck
Source: Lake County Health Department
"The risk of transmission is the highest it's been in years," health department spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski said Wednesday.
Human cases also have been reported in Cook and DuPage counties, and cases in animals have been reported in all of the collar counties.
Although the risk of contracting West Nile may be greater due to the warm spring and unusually dry conditions this summer, officials say there's no reason to panic lock yourselves indoors.
You should still take in a neighborhood softball game or enjoy a family picnic. Just bring along some bug spray and wear the right clothes, experts say.
"We want people to be cautious but not to curtail what they've been doing," DuPage County Health Department spokesman David Hass said.
Not including the Lake County patient, 11 cases of West Nile virus have been reported statewide this year, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health's website.
One of those cases has been in DuPage County. Additionally, Lombard Mayor Bill Mueller reportedly has the disease, but that has not been confirmed by state health officials.
All of the other cases have been in Cook County.
None of the patients have died.
In Lake County, the 68-year-old patient was admitted to a hospital Aug. 5 after developing symptoms of the mosquito-borne disease, including fever, vomiting and mental confusion, Piotrowski said.
The man was treated at an unspecified hospital for three days and then released, Piotrowski said. He was the first West Nile patient in Lake County since 2010.
West Nile virus first was identified in Illinois in 2001, and the first human deaths were reported the following year.
In the U.S., most people are infected between June and September, with infections typically peaking in mid-August.
Culex mosquitoes, which carry West Nile, thrive in dry conditions. And with a lack of rain, catch basins and other breeding areas are not being flushed.
Last year, 34 Illinois residents contracted West Nile and three died, state health officials said.
So far this year, 52 mosquito pools and three birds have tested positive for West Nile in Lake County. The ever-growing total is on pace to beat a record set in 2005, Piotrowski said.
That year, 11 people contracted the disease. One died.
Statewide this year, 37 of the state's counties have reported cases in humans, birds, mosquitoes or horses.
As of Wednesday, that includes:
• Eight birds and 1,620 mosquito batches in Cook County.
• Eleven birds and 327 mosquito batches in DuPage County.
• One bird and 59 mosquito batches in Kane County.
• Two birds and 19 mosquito batches in McHenry County.
Accurately predicting West Nile infections is difficult, Cook County Health Department spokeswoman Amy Poore said. But based on the data and the early human cases, her staff expects the diagnoses to increase through the summer.
"At times like these, it is important to remind the public that (the virus) is a serious though preventable disease," Poore said in an email. "The best way to prevent West Nile disease is to avoid mosquito bites."
People should use insect repellent, wear long sleeves at dawn and dusk, fix tears in screens and empty pools of standing water, officials said.
Additionally, keep roof gutters and downspouts clear of debris, cover trash containers, fill in tree rot holes and hollow stumps that hold water and change the water in bird baths and plant urns at least once a week.
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