West Nile Virus Outbreak Could Get Worse

27 human cases confirmed in Illinois

By Lauren Petty
|  Thursday, Aug 23, 2012  |  Updated 11:01 AM CDT
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West Nile Still a Mysterious Ailment

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Cook County West Nile Cases Increasing

As of Wednesday, there are six confirmed cases of West Nile in Cook County. Natalie Martinez reports.

West Nile Still a Mysterious Ailment

Scientists remain unclear as to why 80 percent of those with West Nile Virus never show any symptoms while others get very sick. Nesita Kwan reports.
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As the mosquito-transmitted West Nile virus continues to spread nationwide, health officials say the unprecedented outbreak likely will get worse before it gets better.

Illinois already has surpassed last year's number of human cases, and the number keeps getting worse.

The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed 1,118 cases in 47 states, including 27 in Illinois and one in Wisconsin. The virus is to blame for the death of Lombard's long-time village president, 76-year-old Bill Mueller, who also battled cancer.

Another suburban official, Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton, also contracted the virus and expects to make a full recovery.

Thousands of mosquitos in Illinois have tested positive for the virus, including 71 percent In DuPage County and 60 percent in Cook County.

The risk is expected to continue for another six weeks.

August and September are typically the months when Illinois sees a rise in cases, but a larger spike is expected this year because of the area's hot, dry summer.

"It's been unbearably hot and very dry and that is the perfect storm, so to speak, of bringing the West Nile virus," said Jason Gerwig, external affairs manager for the DuPage County Health Deptartment. "And that's why you're seeing it here."

Mosquitos thrive in these conditions, and the health department recommends using bug spray to keep mosquitoes away, wearing long sleeves and pants after sunset, and generally staying indoors at dawn and dusk.

Most people who get bit by an infected mosquito won't get sick, according to the CDC. Only about one in five will show symptoms, and people most at risk are those with other health issues, such as cancer or diabetes.

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