Press Release

October 4, 2005

Illinois’ human cases total 199

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today announced the death of a suburban Cook County woman, who was previously reported as being hospitalized with West Nile neuroinvasive disease. The 86-year-od woman died Sept. 29.

In addition, two new West Nile disease cases have been identified in the state, bringing to 199 the number of cases reported so far this year. The new cases are:

  • An 81-year-old woman from suburban Cook County who was hospitalized with West Nile neuroinvasive disease and has since been discharged.
  • A 71-year-old man from Marshall County who was hospitalized with West Nile fever and has since been discharged.

The state’s other cases of West Nile disease have been from Chicago (33), suburban Cook County (86), and the counties of DuPage (37), Kane (12), Kendall (1), Lake (10), LaSalle (1), McHenry (1), McLean (1), Peoria (6), Schuyler (1), St. Clair (1), Will (5) and Winnebago (2). Five West Nile patients have died this year: a 92-year-old woman from suburban Cook County who died Aug. 2, an 85-year-old man from Lake County who died Sept. 5, a 92-year-old woman from suburban Cook County who died Sept. 6, a 78-year-old man from Will County who died Sept. 27, and a 70-year-old woman from suburban Cook County who died Sept. 26.

West Nile virus 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.

Only about two persons out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile disease is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as neuroinvasive disease, and death are possible.

Neuroinvasive disease is the most severe form of the West Nile virus and affects a person’s nervous system. Specific types of neuroinvasive disease include: West Nile encephalitis, West Nile meningitis or West Nile meningoencephalitis. Encephalitis refers to an inflammation of the brain, meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord, and meningoencephalitis refers to inflammation of the brain and the membrane surrounding it. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

In addition to human cases, a total of 221 birds, 2,332 mosquito samples, three horses and one llama from 41 counties have tested positive for West Nile virus since surveillance for the mosquito-borne disease began on May 1.

In 2004, Illinois recorded 60 human cases of West Nile disease, including four deaths, and in 2003, there were 54 human cases, including one death. The state led the nation in 2002 with 884 human cases of West Nile disease and 67 deaths.

Because West Nile virus activity in Culex mosquitoes increases during hot weather, personal protection against mosquitoes is particularly important during August and September. Dr. Whitaker said individuals can reduce their risk of West Nile illness and other mosquito-borne diseases by taking these precautions:

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
  • When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
  • Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Department’s Web site at or people can call the West Nile Virus Hotline at 866-369-9710 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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