West Nile Virus has been detected for the first time this year in a mosquito in Rock Island County.
Janet Hill, interim administrator at the Rock Island County Health Department says the finding isn’t a surprise.
“West Nile is something that is endemic to our area every summer. It’s not surprising that we’ve had a mosquito test positive for it.” The health department monitors mosquitos for West Nile virus from the beginning of summer to the first frost. “Whenever you see mosquitoes, that’s when West Nile could be circulating,” said Hill. “It is typically found more in the later summer than the beginning of the summer but that is not always the case.”
For the most part, the virus isn’t something that Quad City residents need to worry about. “West Nile for most people is not a big deal,” said Hill. “Some people don’t even show symptoms, but for some people, particularly those older than 50 or who are immunocompromised, it can be a really uncomfortable situation for a few days or a few weeks. In rare cases, it develops into very serious illnesses and some people may die.”
The symptoms of West Nile include nausea, fever, headaches and muscle aches, but these are also symptoms of other disorders. Hill says a bit of detective work may be necessary to figure out symptom causes. “If you notice that you have mosquito bites on you, maybe that’s something that you should tell your healthcare provider. The headache and muscle aches, those are more flu like symptoms as opposed to cold or allergy symptoms. We’re out of season for flu, so it could be something a little bit more serious than just your common cold or even COVID. COVID is not particularly associated with muscle aches, but it does have some nausea and headache and sometimes it has fever, sometimes it doesn’t.” Just like with COVID, the only way to know for sure someone has West Nile is to be tested.”
Hill stresses discussing symptoms with a healthcare provider if someone thinks they’ve been exposed or have symptoms that aren’t manageable at home, but there’s no cause for alarm. “People who are younger than 50 and are healthy and those who are older than 50 who are healthy really don’t have a lot to be worried about. You know your body, you know when you are feeling worse than your typical cold or your typical flu. That’s when you should reach out to your healthcare provider.”
While there is no vaccination for West Nile, common sense will help most people avoid it. “For most people, the best way to not get sick is to reduce their exposure. If you’re going to be outside, be sure to put on bug repellent. Make sure that your doors and windows have screens on them. Eliminate sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed.”
Hill says West Nile can also infect pets and livestock, but there’s no need to run after them with bug spray. “The most important aspects are the 3Rs and that’s Reduce, Repel and Report. Reduce your exposure, make sure you wear bug repellent, fix your screens and eliminate standing water. If your child has a pool, make sure that you empty the pool every night and then turn it upside down. You Repel it by wearing bug spray with DEET, wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts and avoiding the dusk hours. Then Report it to us.”
Hill urges people to call the Environmental Health Department at (309) 558-2840 if they find a dead bird that doesn’t look like it’s died from some sort of trauma. “If you find a dead bird in your yard or near someplace that looks like it’s not been hit by a car or something, just lying dead on the ground, give us a call. We may want to test that bird.”