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West Nile cases down in Illinois this year due to weather

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So far this year, health officials have reported 14 cases of West Nile virus statewide, down from almost 200 cases in 2018.

West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne infection, can be deadly, but most cases are relatively mild.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the decline was due mostly to weather conditions. A change in conditions could bring about a resurgence any year.

“The actual West Nile virus-carrying mosquito is different from the mosquitoes that you just see around wet environments,” she said. “This one actually is more related to hot and dry weather, and we didn’t really have that much of the summer, so we didn’t have the environment that was ripe for West Nile. And now we’re getting to cooler temperatures, and usually West Nile virus season is over after the first or second frost, so we’re really getting to the end of the season now.”

West Nile virus can cause mental confusion, paralysis and even death, residents should always take precautions. Five people in DuPage County have been infected since January, and there are at least nine others that the department knows about.

“There are things that we can do, obviously, trying to eliminate the breeding sites for the mosquitoes,” Ezike said. “So if you have standing water, try to clear that. Dump any standing water around the home. Of course, try to protect yourself by keeping screens on windows and doors. Wear long pants, socks and shoes when outdoors, and use insect repellent. And then report areas where you see the stagnant water so that those can be removed or if they need to add larvicide to the water that will kill mosquito eggs.”

Anyone who experiences a high fever or severe muscle aches after being bitten by a mosquito should seek medical attention, health officials said.