The Cook County Department of Public Health (CDPH) is warning residents that the risk of catching West Nile Virus from infected mosquitoes that feed on infected birds is high.
The virus usually doesn’t often present a significant health threat, even when contracted. In rare cases, complications can result in “severe illness, including encephalitis [inflammation of the brain], meningitis [inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord], or even death,” according to the CDPH.
According to recent reports, a woman in her 50s who lives in a northwest suburb is the first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus in suburban Cook County. She reportedly became sick late last month.
A recent CDPH West Nile surveillance report shows that 57 communities were found to have mosquito pools during tests conducted between July 31 and Aug. 6. Some of those mosquitos tested positive for West Nile. Those communities include area suburbs such as Forest Park, Hillside, Melrose Park, Oak Park and River Forest.
According to the CDPH, four out of five people infected by West Nile don’t show any symptoms of the virus and some may become sick three to 15 days after the infected mosquito bite.
Common symptoms include muscle aches, headache, fever and nausea while serious symptoms can include stiff neck and confusion. Those symptoms typically last from several days to a few weeks.
“Serious illness can occur in people of any age,” the CDPH notes. “However, those at greatest risk are people over 50 years of age; who have certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease; have received organ transplants; and/or spend a lot of time outdoors; especially between dusk and dawn.”
Anyone experiencing symptoms is encouraged to contact his or her health-care provider. In order to decrease your risk of contracting the virus, use repellent with DEET, wear protective clothing, remove pools of standing water that may attract mosquitos and make sure window and door screens are properly sealed.