A pool of mosquitoes collected by the Evanston Health and Human Services Department on this week has tested positive for the West Nile virus — the first time that’s happened this year.
City health officials say the best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include:
- Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
- When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and 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.
- Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
- Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flower pots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles.
Contact the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes. Remember, if it can hold water, it can breed mosquitoes.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has been infected with the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.
Only about two people in 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness such as encephalitis, meningitis and death are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.