|May 28, 2003||West Nile
Virus Web site
HENDERSON COUNTY BIRD POSITIVE FOR WEST NILE VIRUS
SPRINGFIELD, IL A dead crow found May 21 in Oquawka in Henderson County has been confirmed as the first bird to test positive in Illinois this year for West Nile virus (WNV), Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today announced.
"Based on last year's experience with the virus, finding a positive bird this spring was not unexpected," said Dr. Whitaker. "In 2002, the Department reported West Nile virus activity in 100 of the state's 102 counties including human cases in 53 counties."
A total of 884 human cases of West Nile disease, including 64 fatalities, have been linked to the 2002 outbreak of West Nile virus in Illinois. No cases have been reported this year. The mosquito-borne disease was first confirmed in birds in Illinois in September 2001. By the end of that year, a total of 138 birds and two horses had tested positive for the disease.
Illinois' 2003 surveillance for West Nile virus began May 1 and includes collecting dead crows and blue jays (other species of birds are not collected for testing). Citizens who see sick or dying crows and blue jays should contact their local health department, which will determine if the bird is to be picked up for testing.
Dr. Whitaker added that the Department is providing communities with information about integrated vector management programs that can help to prevent and to control West Nile and other arboviral diseases. These programs include surveillance for West Nile virus activity in mosquito vectors, birds, horses, other animals and humans, and recommendations for appropriate preventive control measures "larviciding" or treatment of mosquito production sites to reduce mosquito populations when necessary.
WNV is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.
Dr. Whitaker said infections can be mild and include fever, headache and body aches, or can be severe and marked by headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and, rarely, death. Serious West Nile virus illness is most often present in individuals 50 years of age or older.
Because the virus is present in Illinois, Dr. Whitaker recommends individuals take a number of precautions to reduce contact with mosquitoes:
Horse owners also should take precautions to minimize exposure of their animals to mosquitoes. A vaccine to protect horses from WNV became available in 2001. While susceptible to the virus, horses are not known to transmit the disease to other horses or to humans.
The Culex or house mosquito, which can carry West Nile virus or the St. Louis encephalitis virus, breeds in warm, stagnant water and will begin to increase in numbers early in the summer.
Since 1999, WNV has been detected in 44 states, with human cases reported in 39 of those states. So far this year, WNV has been found in birds, animals or mosquitoes in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, as well as in Illinois. In 2002, more than 4,100 cases of West Nile disease and more than 280 deaths were recorded in the United States, with Illinois reporting the highest number of cases and deaths.
Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Department's Web site: www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/wnv.htm. On June 2, the Department's new West Nile virus hotline, 1-866-369-9710, will become operational.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Additional confirmations of birds identified with West Nile virus will be posted on Tuesdays and Thursdays on the Department's Web site.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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