SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed Wednesday that a dead blue jay found July 25 in Champaign has tested positive for West Nile virus, a disease that infected 900 Illinoisans last year, resulting in 66 deaths.
Most people infected with the virus show no symptoms, but some may develop a mild fever or headache three to 15 days after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus.
The virus can have a much more drastic effect on the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
In those people, West Nile can cause encephalitis, muscle weakness, high fever, convulsions, paralysis, coma or death, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"We want this to serve as a reminder to the public that they need to take precautions to protect against mosquito bites in Champaign-Urbana and Champaign County," said Dave King, executive director of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
He recommended taking precautions that can reduce the risk of contracting West Nile or any other mosquito-borne diseases, including wearing mosquito repellent containing 25 percent to 35 percent DEET, wearing long sleeves, pants and shoes and socks when outdoors, repairing torn screens and eliminating any stagnant water pools on your property.
King said he hoped those precautions would avoid any human cases of West Nile in Champaign County, but admitted that it is probably only a matter of time before someone gets infected.
West Nile virus was first confirmed in Illinois in September 2001, and in 2002 it was found in 100 of the state's 102 counties.
So far this year, the West Nile virus has been found in Champaign, Cook, Crawford, DuPage, Henderson, Kane, Kankakee, Lake, Livingston, Logan, McHenry, McLean, St. Clair, Will and Williamson counties.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 18 birds and 12 mosquito batches discovered since May 1 in those counties have tested positive.
By this time last year, 139 birds, 36 mosquito batches and one horse had been confirmed infected with West Nile Virus in 38 Illinois counties, said Tammy Leonard, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"The weather this year hasn't been as favorable for the culex mosquitoes as it was last year," Leonard said.
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