The first human case of the potentially deadly West Nile Virus in suburban Cook County had been found in Oak Lawn.
Cook County Department of Public Health officials confirmed last week the first human case of the virus was identified in a woman in her 40s from Oak Lawn who became ill earlier this month.
Because of privacy laws her name is not being released but county health officials said she was not hospitalized and is recovering at home. The virus continues to circulate throughout all of suburban Cook County. Recently there were positive mosquito pools in 61 communities and three dead birds having tested positive for the virus.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of prevention during West Nile virus season,” Cook County Department of Public Health COO Dr. Terry Mason said in a news release. “Every year, the virus circulates throughout suburban Cook County and while we can’t eliminate those mosquitoes, we all have the ability to take basic prevention measures to protect against human transmission.”
This information was released shortly after Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park and Chicago Ridge were added to the list of suburban communities where mosquitoes infected with the West Nile Virus have been detected this year.
A Cook County Department of Public Health surveillance report showed that the number of communities jumped from 18 to 33 in just one week. Other communities newly added to the list include Palos Heights, Palos Park, Orland Park and Lemont.
Evergreen Park made West Nile-related headlines in recent years. Mayor James Sexton’s 2012 infection and recovery from a near-fatal case of West Nile disease was known to many and chronicled in a 2013 profile in The Reporter.
Health officials say the most effective way to prevent against becoming infected with WNV is to follow the three R’s:
• Remove standing water around your home in pet bowls, flower pots, old tires, baby pools and toys. Water that is allowed to stagnate for three or four days become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
• Repel mosquitoes when outdoors between dusk and dawn by applying insect repellent with DEET and wear light, lose fitting clothing.
• Repair or replace torn screens on doors and windows
Health officials say that people infected with WNV have no symptoms of illness and never become ill. But illness can occur three-to-15 days after an infected mosquito bite and cause symptoms of fever, headache and body aches.
The disease can affect all ages, but people over the age of 50 and those with a chronic disease, such as heart disease or cancer may be at-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.
The Northern House mosquito, Culex pipiens, is the primary carrier of West Nile virus. This mosquito species thrives in water with high organic content, such as that found in catch basins (storm sewers). Consequently, a hot, dry summer increases the risk of West Nile virus infection, exactly the opposite of what many people believe.
In contrast, the swarms of "floodwater" mosquitoes that appear after heavy rains may be a nuisance, but they rarely are infected with West Nile virus.
Northern House mosquitoes are not aggressive, and people rarely notice when being bitten.
In 2013, some 2,469 human cases (119 of them fatal) of West Nile-related illness were reported nationally. In Illinois, there were 117 reported cases and 11 deaths. Statewide, cases ranged in age from 14 to 92 years, with a median age of 59. In suburban Cook County, there were 16 known cases and at least one death.