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Diligence can help prevent West Nile virus

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:00 p.m. CDT

West Nile virus has been found in 25 Illinois counties this year. Although no human cases of the virus have been reported, and the virus has not yet been found in DeKalb County, University of Illinois Extension entomologist Phil Nixon says it’s best to be extra diligent to protect yourself. 

One easy way to prevent mosquitoes from becoming a nuisance when you’re outside, Nixon said, is to keep a fan blowing on your deck or patio. “Mosquitoes are not very good at flying, so they need air to be still in order to land and bite. Keep the air circulating with a fan blowing over the area where your guests are outside,” he said.

Other preventative measures include:

• regularly change or empty the water in birdbaths, dog dishes or other yard containers

• add goldfish or bait minnows – not koi or carp – to yard ponds

• repair and install screens in windows

• wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes, and socks to reduce the amount of exposed skin

“The northern house mosquito loves to breed in stagnant, even putrid water, so cleaning out the gutters and other places water collects is one of the best things homeowners can do,” he said. 

The northern house mosquito is a small, medium brown, quiet biter, meaning it lands softly and the bite is painless enough that many people don’t even know they’ve been bitten. It doesn’t buzz around your ear like other mosquitoes do. It bites both birds and humans. That’s how the West Nile virus gets transmitted, Nixon said. 

“The mosquito bites a diseased house sparrow or other bird and then bites a human, infecting them with the virus,” said Nixon. “Most people might not even know they have the virus, may have an immunity built up to it or may experience mild flu-like symptoms, but for infants and seniors, a bite from an infected mosquito can cause serious disease, including muscle weakness, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, coma or death.”

On the Web

For more information, visit http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm.

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