Horse in Jackson Co. tests positive for West Nile | Health
JACKSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The Illinois Department of Agriculture says a horse in Jackson County has tested positive for West Nile virus, the first in the state to do so since 2010.
According to the public health officials, the presence of the virus in horses can be an indicator of increased risk to humans of West Nile virus.
The Jackson County Health Department participates in a statewide West Nile virus surveillance program that aims to detect the virus in mosquito, bird, horse and human populations. They say the detection of WNV in other species indicates potential risk to humans of contracting the virus. Since mid-June the health department has detected West Nile virus in several batches of mosquitoes, one bird and now has lab results from Aug. 14 on a horse positive for the virus. The health department says no human cases of WNV have been reported in Jackson County this year, although 11 human case have been reported in Illinois recently, all of which are in the Chicago area. Thirty-seven Illinois counties have reported West Nile virus activity so far this year, compared to 19 counties for all of 2011.
"All of these surveillance results drive home the importance of people protecting themselves from mosquitoes," said Bart Hagston, Environmental Health Director for Jackson County Health Department. "While birds and horses can be infected with West Nile virus, mosquitoes are the only creatures known to infect humans with the virus. It is important for everyone to take precautions against mosquito bites at this time."
According to the health department, the house mosquito which typically carries West Nile virus, thrives in hot temperatures. House mosquitoes are not as noticeable as the swarms of floodwater mosquitoes we see during rainy summers. Even if it does not look like there are a lot of mosquitoes out, house mosquitoes are stealthy biters and their virus infection rate is increasing rapidly. Individuals can reduce their risk of West Nile illness and other mosquito-borne diseases by taking these precautions:
- Use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
- Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.
- When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
- Eliminate sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles.
The health department says only about two people out of every 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile disease normally occurs three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito and is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches. However, serious illness such as encephalitis and meningitis, with lingering complications and even death, are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.
More information about the West Nile virus is available on the Illinois Department of Public Health's website or you can call the West Nile Virus Hotline at 866-369-9710 (Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Horse owners who have an animal that exhibits symptoms like twitching, weakness, lethargy or loss of control should consult their veterinarian immediately for testing and treatment.
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