Take care to protect yourself during mosquito season

Lake County Health Department submission
Updated 5/29/2014 11:36 AM

With the spring rains come opportunities for mosquitoes to breed. The Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center is encouraging residents to be vigilant about eliminating sources for mosquitoes to breed, as well as using protection to avoid contracting West Nile virus.

Most people become infected with West Nile virus by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds and then spread the virus to humans and other animals. In 2013, five human cases of West Nile virus were reported in Lake County.

"The five human cases reported last year remind us that it is still important for residents to protect themselves against West Nile virus," said Tony Beltran, the Health Department's executive director. "We can do this by protecting ourselves against mosquito bites and ensuring that the environment around us is not conducive to mosquito breeding."

Recommendations to prevent mosquito breeding include:

• Discard old tires, buckets, drums or any water-holding containers; poke holes in tires used as bumpers on 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 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.

Recommendations to prevent mosquito bites include:

• Wear light-colored clothing that minimizes exposed skin and provides some protection from mosquito bites.

• Make sure door and window screens fit tightly and that all holes are repaired.

• Apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 according to label instructions; consult a physician before using repellents on infants.

County residents may report areas of stagnant water (conducive for mosquito breeding) and locations of dead birds, or learn more about the signs and symptoms of West Nile encephalitis, by calling the West Nile hotline number, (847) 377-8300.

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. In some individuals, particularly the elderly, the virus can cause muscle weakness, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, coma or death.

The Health Department conducts a multifaceted mosquito surveillance program in Lake County. Beginning in late spring and continuing into the autumn, a series of traps are set around the county, including within the Lake County Forest Preserves.

At each site, a pool, or batch, of mosquitoes is tested weekly for West Nile virus. Areas of stagnant water are also investigated throughout the season for the presence of mosquito larvae, specifically from the Culex mosquito, which is the primary carrier of West Nile in Illinois.

Finally, the locations of dead birds are monitored to assist in the assessment of potential West Nile virus activity. The Health Department works closely with municipalities, townships, and the Lake County Forest Preserve District in monitoring the mosquitoes that may pose a public health threat.

Information about WNV can be found on the Department's web site, health.lakecountyil.gov/Population/Pages/West-Nile-Virus. aspx.