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Cold spring delays testing for West Nile virus

Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014 2:21 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014 11:29 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – DeKalb County Health Department officials are gearing up to catch mosquitoes that may be infected with West Nile virus.

Greg Maurice, DeKalb County Health Department director of health protection, said the cooler temperatures delayed the start of West Nile season. Predicting the prevalence of the virus is weather-dependent, Maurice said.

"It has to be hot and dry. The particular mosquito likes to breed in stagnant water," Maurice said. "If we get more of a drought situation like in 2012, there will be more of a prevalence of mosquitoes."

Officials will place mosquito traps across the county starting June 1 to later test each batch for the virus, which caused 30 deaths in Illinois last year, according to an Illinois Department of Public Health news release.

There were no cases of West Nile virus in humans in DeKalb County last year, but seven mosquito batches tested positive for the disease. There were 507 reported human cases of West Nile in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Mosquitoes are sorted after collection and are run through a centrifuge. A rapid analyte measurement platform tool tests to see if any mosquitoes have West Nile virus, Maurice said.

Locals can take precautions to prevent their risk of catching the disease. Maurice suggested avoiding the outdoors during dusk and dawn and wearing bug spray and long-sleeved clothing.

According to the DeKalb County Health Department, people older than 50 and those with a compromised immune system are more susceptible to more severe symptoms of West Nile virus.

Symptoms occur three to 14 days after being bit by a mosquito. There is no specific treatment, the health department states.

Officials often can tell how prevalent West Nile virus is in an area by testing dead birds. West Nile appears in birds before it's transmitted to humans, according to the DeKalb County Health Department.

Residents should report dead birds in stagnant water to the DeKalb County Health Department at 815-758-6673.

Maurice said being proactive and cautious is the best way for people to protect themselves against West Nile Virus.

"They shouldn't be scared or concerned. West Nile is always going to be present," Maurice said. "It's here."

How to help

Residents should report dead birds in stagnant water to the DeKalb County Health Department at 815-758-6673.

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