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The City of Evanston’s Health Department is reporting six human cases of West Nile virus (WNV), up from zero cases in 2011. The Director of Evanston’s Health Department, Evonda Thomas, is reminding residents to be vigilant about protecting themselves while outside after dusk. Staff will be available at the following city-sponsored Starlight Movies to hand out precaution notices and repellant:

• August 25 at Brummel Park (Grease sing-along)
• August 29 at Dawes Park (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
• September 8 at Dawes Park (Singing in the Rain)

Director Thomas reports that this year there are record levels of West Nile virus activity nationwide and very high mosquito activity in Evanston. “We urge people to continue to protect themselves by following the three R’s – reduce exposure to mosquitoes, repel them by wearing insect repellent, and report areas where mosquitoes typically breed.”

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), there are currently 21 human cases of West Nile virus in Illinois. The first human case of West Nile virus was reported on July 24 — about a month earlier than most human cases in previous years.

Nationwide, through the second week in August, 693 cases had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the same period since West Nile virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1999.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Common West Nile virus symptoms include rash, fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks. However, four out of five people infected with West Nile Virus will not show any symptoms. In rare cases, severe illness, including meningitis or encephalitis, or even death, can occur. People older than age 50 are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.

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.
• When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that contains 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, flower pots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. Email the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District at NSMAD or call 847-446-9434 to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.

Public health officials believe that a hot summer increases mosquito activity and the risk of disease from West Nile infection. For additional information about the West Nile virus, check the CDC website at www.cdc.gov, email the Evanston Health Department at health@cityofevanston.org or call 3-1-1.