Early Report of West Nile Virus in East Central Illinois

Early Report of West Nile Virus in East Central Illinois

IDPH reports the first bird in Illinois to test positive in 2024 for the West Nile virus.

Where was the first positive bird specimen found?

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has reported the first 2024 West Nile virus (WNV) positive bird specimen in Illinois was collected in Douglas County. The report of this first positive test among the bird population in Illinois follows a relatively mild winter and spring.

People who see a sick or dead crow, blue jay, robin, or other perching bird should contact their local health department to determine if the bird specimen is eligible for testing.

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a Culex mosquito, commonly called a house mosquito, that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. The mosquito then transmits the virus by biting another host, such as a bird, horse, or human.

Common WNV symptoms may include fever, nausea, headache, and muscle aches. These symptoms typically last from a few days to a few weeks. However, most people infected with the West Nile virus will not experience symptoms.

Unfortunately, in rare cases, severe illness, including meningitis, encephalitis, or even death, can occur. People older than 60 and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness from the West Nile virus.

Why is West Nile Virus a problem?

Last year, 67 Illinois counties reported West Nile virus-positive results due to one or more infected mosquito batches, birds, horses, or human cases.

Provisional data indicates 119 human cases of West Nile virus, and six deaths were reported in Illinois last year. This is a significant increase in transmissions compared to 33 human cases and seven deaths in 2022. IDPH notes that human cases are underreported and do not reflect the actual number.

“The news of the first bird with West Nile virus so early in the season is a signal for Illinois residents to begin protecting themselves and their horses from vector-borne diseases,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra.

He also said, “We urge everyone, especially older adults and those with weakened immune systems, to take precautions to protect themselves and their families from mosquitoes and the viruses they carry by wearing insect repellent and eliminating standing water around their home where mosquitoes breed.”

How do we protect ourselves from West Nile Virus?

Director Vohra added that vaccination protects horses from West Nile virus. Monitoring for West Nile virus in Illinois includes laboratory tests. Test subjects include mosquito batches, dead birds, sick horses, and humans with West Nile virus-like symptoms. He encourages everyone to “Fight the Bite” by practicing the three Rs:

REDUCE—Ensure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut.

Each week, eliminate or refresh all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed. This includes water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires, and other containers.

REPEL—When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants, and a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt, and apply an EPA-registered insect repellent.

Check to ensure the repellent contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR 3535, para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone according to the label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.

REPORT—Report locations where water is stagnant for more than a week to your local health department. Examples include roadside ditches, flooded yards, and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.

Where can you find more information?

Additional information and data can be found at IDPH’s West Nile virus website and Moultrie County Health Department’s website.

Adult Health Topics