West Nile Virus

Illinois Reports First Human West Nile Virus Death for 2021

Illinois reported the state's first human West Nile virus-related death for 2021, state health officials confirmed Friday.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, a Will County resident who contracted the illness in August and tested positive for West Nile Virus has died.

“Although we are already into fall, we are expecting a warm weekend and West Nile virus remains a risk until the first hard frost,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “It’s important for everyone to continue taking precautions such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, and staying indoors between dusk and dawn.”

In 2021, 40 human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Illinois, health officials said. Last year, IDPH reported 42 human cases and four deaths.

IDPH noted that in 2020, 26 Illinois counties reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito batch, bird, horse or human case.

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals through mosquito bites, IDPH said. These are the common symptoms: fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches.

Symptoms typically last from a few days to a few weeks, though four out of five people infected with the virus will not show symptoms, health officials said.

Though rare, severe illness and death can occur as a result of the West Nile virus, according to IDPH. People age 50 and older, as well as immunocompromised individuals, are considered at higher risk.

Health officials recommend the following precautions:

  • Reduce: eliminate or refresh each week, all sources of standing water. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings
  • 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
  • Report: report locations where you see water sitting stagnant for more than a week such as roadside ditches, flooded yards, and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.  The local health department or city government may be able to add larvicide to the water, which will kill any mosquito larvae
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