State and county health officials announced today that a bird recently tested positive for West Nile virus in Knox County. Although very few mosquitoes actually carry West Nile virus, infected birds serve as an early warning by indicating the virus is present in the area and people should be more vigilant in protecting themselves against mosquito bites.
West Nile virus is spread to people and horses through the bite of an infected mosquito. People must be bitten by an infected mosquito in order to contract the virus. Mosquitoes become infected with West Nile virus by feeding on infected birds and then potentially transmit the virus by biting other animals or people.
Surveillance for West Nile virus in Illinois began in May and includes laboratory tests on mosquitoes, dead crows, blue jays, robins and other perching birds, as well as the testing of sick horses and humans with West Nile-like disease symptoms. Citizens who observe a sick or dying crow, blue jay, robin or other perching bird should contact the Knox County Health Department, which will determine if the bird will be picked up for testing.
This positive West Nile virus finding emphasizes the ongoing need to take precautions against mosquito bites. Follow the “Three R’s” – reduce, repel, and report, to help reduce exposure to mosquitoes and prevent West Nile virus infection:
- REDUCE exposure - avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between
dusk and dawn.
- REPEL - when outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply
insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
- REPORT – The Knox County Health Department conducts active surveillance for West Nile
Virus through mosquito trapping and collection of dead birds. Contact the Knox County Health Department at 309-344-2224 Monday through Friday 8:00am – 4:00pm to report a dead bird; health department staff will determine if the bird is suitable for testing.
If a dead bird is found between now and October and appears to have died of natural causes, residents should report the sighting to the Knox County Health Department Monday thru Friday, 8:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. at 309-344-2224; for more information visit the Knox County Health Department website here.