WOOD RIVER — The Madison County Health Department, St. Clair County Health Department and East Side Health District announced that mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile virus have been on the rise over the past week.
Positive mosquito samples have been collected in Belleville, Collinsville, East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Fairview Heights, Freeburg, Hamel Township, Marine Township, Maryville, O’Fallon, Shiloh, Stookey Township and Troy. The St. Clair County Health Department received its first mosquito pool that was positive for West Nile virus May 26 in O’Fallon. East Side Health District received its first mosquito pool that was positive for West Nile virus July 20 in East St. Louis. Madison County Health Department received its first mosquito pool that was positive for West Nile Virus July 21 in Edwardsville. No dead birds submitted for laboratory testing from any of these three jurisdictions have been positive for WNV yet this season. To date, no human cases have been reported in Illinois in 2015.
The virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Investigations by health officials have found that wild birds, especially crows and blue jays, are key indicator species of West Nile Virus in an area. Positive birds and/or positive mosquitoes have been found in 44 Illinois counties this season.
Because of recent increased West Nile activity in mosquitoes in the Metro East, health officials recommend citizens use insect repellent and wear protective clothing during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
The County Surveillance Program followed by local health departments in Illinois is an important tool that is used to gauge appropriate responses to address the potential for human cases of West Nile.
There are specific criteria required to test a dead bird for the virus. Birds should be dead within 24 to 48 hours and not decomposed. Birds should have no obvious cause of death. Eligible birds will be submitted to the laboratory by health department staff. Dead birds will be accepted for testing through Oct. 15.
For information about dead bird collection, contact the Madison County Health Department at (618) 296-6079.
The best way to prevent West Nile virus or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around homes and take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include practicing the three “R’s” — reduce, repel and report.
Reduce exposure: Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. 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 standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. Change water in bird baths weekly.
Repel: When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
Report: In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
“We need your help to reduce the number of mosquitoes, reduce opportunities for mosquitoes and prevent bites,” said Mary Cooper, environmental health manager at Madison County Health Department. “We encourage our citizens to follow these three simple steps of Reduce, Repel and Report.”
Information about West Nile virus can be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website at www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/west-nile-virus/surveillance or http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnvgenpublic.htm.