Human cases of West Nile virus in Illinois; one in Cook County

August 19, 2011

Mosquitoes pick up West Nile virus from infected birds and then pass it along to humans.

The first human cases of West Nile virus in 2011 have been confirmed by Illinois health officials. One case was reported in southern Illinois, another in Cook County.

Melaney Arnold is a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. She said, "We are seeing an increase definitely in West Nile virus activity especially in Northeastern Illinois. So people do need to take precautions - a lot of people have become somewhat complacent."

Arnold recommends wearing long sleeve shirts and pants as well as insect repellent - especially around dawn and dusk. Eliminating stagnant water is also advised as pools of water make for ideal mosquito breeding grounds. Regarding infection, officials report that on average two in 10 people who who are bitten and infected by a mosquito will experience any illness. Symptoms include fever, headache and body aches. But those with more compromised immune systems can experience serious illness like encephalitis, meningitis and even death.

Last year a total of 61 human cases of West Nile virus in Illinois were reported.