September 5, 2001
WEST NILE VIRUS IDENTIFIED IN ILLINOIS
SPRINGFIELD, IL Two dead crows found in the Chicago metropolitan area have tested positive for West Nile virus, marking the first time the virus has been identified in Illinois, Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, today announced.
There have been no human cases of West Nile virus reported in Illinois and the risk for this disease remains low, Dr. Lumpkin said. However, people, particularly those living in the areas where the virus has been identified, should take precautions to protect against mosquito bites.
The crows were found Aug. 23 in Arlington Heights (Cook County) and Aug. 27 in Lombard (DuPage County) by local public health officials and today were confirmed positive for the presence of West Nile virus by the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis.
Illinois has had a surveillance system in place for West Nile virus since 2000 and Gov. George H. Ryan has created a Cabinet level work group, headed by Dr. Lumpkin, to coordinate the states response among the various agencies involved -- the departments of Agriculture and
Natural Resources (DNR) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
It was inevitable that West Nile virus would reach Illinois and citizens should be assured that a comprehensive, statewide strategy is in place that offers the best protection possible, Gov. Ryan said. While at first the best estimate was that West Nile virus would not be a threat to Illinois until 2002, its rapid movement recently heightened concerns for this year.
The West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Dr. Lumpkin said, while most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms of illness, some may become ill usually three to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.
When people do become ill, symptoms can be mild, such as a fever and headache. In some individuals, however, particularly the elderly, West Nile virus can cause serious disease that includes muscle weakness, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, coma or death.
Surveillance for sick and dead wild birds appears to be the best way of detecting the virus. DNR has been monitoring crows, blue jays and hawks for unusual mortality and local health departments are collecting these types of dead birds for initial necropsy and testing by the Illinois Department of Agriculture lab in Galesburg.
Dr. Lumpkin said the following steps should be taken to reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes:
With the addition of Illinois, West Nile virus has been detected in a total of 21 states and in Washington, D. C., and Ontario, Canada since it was first discovered in this country in New York in 1999. Within the past two weeks, the virus has been identified in Indiana (8/21), Michigan (8/23), Kentucky (8/31) and Wisconsin (8/31).
Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Departments web site at http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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