Press Release

September 5, 2008


Central Illinois Reports First Birds Testing Positive for West Nile Virus  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, today announced the first birds testing positive for West Nile virus this year in central Illinois were found in Sangamon and Peoria counties.

“Although Fall is only a couple weeks away, people need to stay vigilant and protect themselves against West Nile virus,” said Dr. Arnold. “These birds testing positive for West Nile virus serve as a reminder that mosquitoes are still active and you should take precautions such as wearing insect repellent and getting rid of any standing water around your home.”

The Sangamon County Health Department notified the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) of the positive sparrow collected on August 25 in Illiopolis and Peoria County reported a positive Blue Jay collected in Peoria on August 29.

To date, 18 counties have reported a West Nile virus positive bird, mosquito, horse or human case. There are currently five human cases this year in Illinois. Last year 46 of the state’s 102 counties were found to have positive cases. A total of 101 human cases of West Nile disease, including four deaths, were reported last year in Illinois.

Surveillance for West Nile virus in Illinois began on May 1 and includes laboratory tests on mosquitoes, dead crows, blue jays, robins and other perching birds as well as the testing of sick horses and humans with West Nile-like disease symptoms. Citizens who observe a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird should contact their local health department, which will determine if the bird is to be picked up for testing.

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 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

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

The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include:

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. Use prevention methods whenever mosquitoes are present.
  • When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 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

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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