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West Nile Virus is back.
Mosquitoes collected in Evanston have tested positive for the virus for the first time this year, according to the City’s Health Department. The North Shore Mosquito Abatement District (NSMAD) began surveillance for the virus on May 1 and collected the infected bugs on July 18. City officials declined to indicate where in the City the mosquitoes were collected but said the discovery was not unusual.
“The City’s had West Nile-positive mosquitoes every year since 2001,” said Carl Caneva, division manager for the Evanston Health Department. “This is not a unique or new event.”
The infected mosquitoes may be connected to the recent hot temperatures, according to Mr. Caneva. While many associate mosquitoes with flooding, Mr. Caneva said these mosquitoes are usually the result of heat and drought.
The Illinois Department of Health says mosquitoes pick up the virus from feeding on infected birds and can then pass it on to humans. About 20 percent of people who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any kind of illness. Symptoms can develop anywhere between three and 14 days after the bite and are typically mild. Fever, headache and body aches are the most often experienced symptoms but, in rare cases, West Nile Virus can lead to meningitis or even death, according to the Evanston Health Department.
Byron Parsons, 44, a longtime resident of Evanston, said his friend was infected with West Nile Virus a couple years ago and almost died from the disease. “I still have a phobia about it since I know somebody so close to me has caught it,” Mr. Parsons said.
One local physician said the news might impact his work. Ragesh Jindal, 35, said, “I see patients all the time, so I think I’ll look out for that now.” He said he sees about one or two cases of West Nile a year.
Others expressed less concern.
“So far this summer I haven’t had any problems with mosquitoes,” said Morgan Service, 23, a Women and Gender Studies student at Loyola University. “Normally I’d wear ‘Off!’ spray or something like that, but I haven’t felt the need to.”
No human cases have yet been reported this year in Cook County, but City officials encourage residents to be proactive in protecting themselves from mosquitoes. Mr. Caneva recommends applying mosquito repellant, avoiding being out at dusk and dawn, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and regularly emptying anything outside that fills with standing water. “Even something as small as a Dixie cup can attract mosquitoes,” Mr. Caneva said.
Last Tuesday NSMAD sprayed for adult mosquitoes in parts of Evanston, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Winnetka as a part of their mosquito control operations, according to the NSMAD website. A map on their site showed that the area of Evanston north of Central Street and west of Reese Avenue was included in the spraying.
Last year the Illinois Department of Health reported 30 human cases of West Nile Virus and one associated death. The state faced its biggest West Nile outbreak in 2002 when more than 600 human cases were reported in the Cook County alone. That year 42 people in the county died from the virus.
Residents are urged to contact the Evanston Health Department at 847-866-2947, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 311 if they see a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird.