Officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health have confirmed that two batches of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus, the first positive tests of the summer.
According to authorities, workers with the Des Plaines Valley Mosquito Abatement District collected a positive batch of the insects on May 31 in River Forest, and on June 5 officials from the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District found insects that tested positive for the disease in Evanston.
“While we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also remember to take steps to protect our health from other illnesses,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “Getting outdoors is a great way to combat being cooped up, but you need to take precautions to protect yourself from mosquitoes and the viruses they carry.”
Officials recommend using insect repellant and getting rid of standing water around homes as preventative measures. Mosquitoes are often more active early in the morning and at dusk, so if you’re venturing outside of your home at those times, long sleeves and long pants are recommended.
Officials in Illinois conduct laboratory testing on mosquito batches to help track the spread of West Nile virus, along with tests on dead birds, such as blue jays and robins.
Anyone who sees a sick or dead bird or horse should contact their local health department, as they will make a determination on whether to test the affected animal.
West Nile virus is spread through mosquitoes, who pick up the disease from feeding on infected birds. Common symptoms of the virus include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. Symptoms can last anywhere from days to weeks, but at least four out of every five people who contract the virus will never show symptoms.
In rare instances, severe illness and death can occur. Individuals over the age of 60 and those with weakened immune systems are especially susceptible to the virus.