Reports of a Cook County woman contracting West Nile virus were officially confirmed Monday by the Illinois Department of Public Health, marking the first human infection in Illinois this year.
The Cook County Health Department reported the female in her 60s earlier this month under the suspicion she was infected with the mosquito-driven virus.
This report comes earlier than most as the first human case is usually reported in August.
West Nile infections are at an all-time high for this time of year, with 27 counties reporting positive cases involving one human, 21 birds, and 631 mosquitos carrying the virus.
A bird collected in Cook County on May 16, and mosquito batches collected May 17 and May 18 in DuPage County, marked the first reports of virus positive specimens.
Nineteen counties in Illinois reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito batch, bird, and/or human case last year. Those reports accompany a total of 34 people contracting the virus last year, with three deaths.
“We are seeing are large increase in West Nile virus activity and this first human case is a good reminder that we all need to take precautions,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “The mosquitoes that typically carry West Nile virus, commonly called the house mosquito, are not as noticeable as the swarms of floodwater mosquitoes we see during rainy summers. Even if it does not look like there are a lot of mosquitoes out, house mosquitoes are stealthy biters and their virus infection rate is increasing rapidly, so make sure to use insect repellent.”
Common symptoms of West Nile infections include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches, though many show no symptoms at all.
The IDPH recommends reducing outdoor exposure between dusk and dawn, when mosquitos are most active, having screens on all windows, keeping windows and doors shut and wearing mosquito repellant and protective clothing to prevent West Nile.