West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus (WNV) is the most common mosquito-borne disease in Illinois. Luckily it is not contagious and does not spread from person to person or from animals to people.
In 2002 there was an outbreak of the virus in Illinois that resulted in 884 human cases of the disease and 66 of those cases were fatal. West Nile Virus usually cycles between mosquitoes and birds, but occasionally humans and other mammals will contract the virus. Certain bird species such as Crows, Blue Jays, hawks, and eagles are highly susceptible and usually ends in mortality.
Horses are also susceptible to WNV infection, but a vaccine is available through veterinarians. Cases of the illness in dogs and cats are very rare. Unfortunately for us, there is no cure for the West Nile virus for humans.
People of all ages can get sick from WNV, but 4 in 5 people will show no symptoms. For those who are affected will experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands, and muscle weakness. The symptoms can last days or even weeks so medical attention should be sought immediately.
Most people infected with the Zika virus will not show symptoms, for those who do, the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) and should not last longer than a week. Because of the lack of symptoms, travelers returning to the US should take preventative steps for the next 3 weeks from mosquito bites so they do not spread the virus. Government agencies in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Jamaica advised women to postpone getting pregnant until more is known about the risks.
Zika can spread from a pregnant woman to her baby. Those infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy are at risk of causing the birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. Other problems in babies before birth may be defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth.
Related: Zika & Pest Control
LaCrosse Encephalitis (LAC) is primarily found in central and northwestern regions of Illinois. The majority of LAC cases are mild and less than 1% of those cases are fatal. In very severe cases it can take five to fifteen days to notice the symptoms, which include nausea, vomiting, headache, seizure, coma, and brain damage.
Children under the age of 16 are most susceptible to this virus and, just like other mosquito-borne illnesses, LAC can not be transmitted from person to person.
The eastern tree hole mosquito is a carrier for this disease and normally develops in water filled cavities in trees or artificial containers just above the waterline. The adult mosquito is very aggressive and generally stays near its food source.
St. Louis Encephalitis
Cases of St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) are very rare in people but the disease is still circulating in some mosquito populations. This virus can cause illness in people, horses, and certain types of birds.
For the one percent of people infected by this disease, symptoms start to show 5-15 days after the bite. The disease starts with fever, headache, dizziness, and nausea and typically gets worse over a period of a week and then spontaneously resolves.
There aren’t any vaccinations for these mosquito-borne diseases, so it is up to you to take preventative mosquito control measures to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites throughout the summer.
Related: How to Get Rid of Mosquitos
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