Evanston reports first case of West Nile virus this year

Nora Shelly, City Editor

Evanston reported its first case of West Nile virus this year, as the number of mosquitos carrying the disease increases in the area.

The city reported Friday that a resident had been infected. There have been 30 reported cases of West Nile virus in Illinois this year as of Sept. 21, compared with 77 total last year, according to the news release. Although the number of infected humans has decreased in the state, the state has seen an increase in the number of mosquitos spreading West Nile virus.

David Zazra, the communications manager of the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, said the number of disease-carrying mosquitos has been “above average” since the beginning of July, with a peak in August.

Although the number of disease-carrying mosquitos is declining with the start of fall, residents should be concerned about the virus until the first harsh frost, Zazra said.

“We have seen a steep decline in the number and the abundance of West Nile virus mosquitoes, but it’s not quite over yet,” he said.

Cases of the virus typically start to pop up between the end of July through August and increase at the end of August and into September, Zazra said.

In the meantime, Zazra recommended people still take precautions against mosquito bites, such as getting rid of standing water.

“Risk is low right now,” he said.

The virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird, according to the news release. Common symptoms appear three to 14 days after infection, last up to a few weeks and include fever and headache.

Preventing contraction of the virus is partially the residents’ duty, said Evonda Thomas-Smith, Evanston health and human services director, in a news release.

“Residents need to be cognizant that West Nile virus prevention does not stop with the adult mosquito operations performed by the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District,” she said in the release.
The Abatement District is responsible for limiting mosquito-carried illnesses by surveillance, reducing standing water and occasionally spraying to reduce the amount of adult mosquitoes in an area.

The amount of disease-carrying mosquitos is particularly high in the northeast part of the state, which includes Cook County, said Melaney Arnold, a public information officer for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Arnold said although there has been a higher amount of disease-carrying mosquitoes throughout the state, the situation in 2012 or 2013 was much worse.

“Typically what happens is if it’s a hot, dry summer we see more West Nile virus activity,” she said. “We’ve seen some hot, dry patches, we’ve seen some rainy patches. …This summer has kind of been a mixed bag.”

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