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County officials warn of West Nile virus dangers

Published: Saturday, July 26, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, July 27, 2014 3:32 a.m. CDT
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(Shaw Media file photo)
Cook County officials are reminding residents to protect themselves from mosquitoes this summer and to watch out for sign of West Nile virus.

With mosquito season in swing, Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) officials are reminding residents to be cautious and protect against West Nile virus.

CCDPH spokesman Dr. Terry Mason said residents need to remember that West Nile virus is real and to be vigilant in protecting against it, because it’s found every year in area communities. Unless basic prevention steps are taken to limit the risk, breeding grounds can develop around homes and put people at risk for the infection, Mason said.

West Nile Virus is an infection carried by the Culex mosquito. The Culex breeds in small pools of stagnant water. They rest during the day in areas of vegetation and are most active and likely to bite between the hours of dusk and dawn. The most effective way to prevent the virus is to follow the three R’s – remove, repel and repair, according to a department news release.

Residents are advised to remove standing water around their home in pet bowls, flower pots, old tires, bird baths, baby pools and toys where mosquitoes can breed. Homeowners should also make sure rain gutters drain properly.

Mosquitoes can be repelled when outdoors by applying insect repellent with DEET and following label directions.

Residents should also repair or replace screens on doors and windows.

Most people infected with the virus have no symptoms of illness and never become ill, but illness can occur about three to 15 days after an infected mosquito bite and cause symptoms of fever, headache and body aches. People over the age of 50 are at a higher risk for serious complications from encephalitis or meningitis. For that reason, people who experience high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, severe headaches, or a stiff neck should see a doctor immediately.

Between May and October each year, CCDPH conducts surveillance to identify mosquitoes, birds and humans positive for the disease. To report a dead bird, please visit the health department's website at www.cookcountypublichealth.org.

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