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CDC Calls West Nile Outbreak 'Largest Ever'

DuPage County reported the state's first West Nile-related death on Aug. 18; Will County health officials urge residents to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control are reporting the largest outbreak of West Nile virus since the disease appeared in this country in 1999 — but that doesn’t mean Will County residents should panic, according to local health officials.

To date, there have been no human cases of West Nile in Will County this year, said Vic Reato, spokesman for the Will County Health Department. Last year, there were 34 cases of the illness statewide.

“We’ve had lots of birds and mosquitoes,” Reato said, noting that the number of WNV-positive mosquitoes found in Will County has doubled compared to last year. “I think at some point it would not be unreasonable to assume that we could have some human cases.”

With five human cases so far this summer, DuPage County reported the state’s after Lombard Village President Bill Mueller died of complications from the disease. Mueller, who had been battling cancer for more than four years, was hospitalized on Aug. 5 and died two weeks later.

Cook County has reported 15 cases of the illness, Reato said.

Nationwide, the CDC is reporting 1,118 cases and 42 deaths related to West Nile virus.

"We're in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the United States," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, a CDC official told The Huffington Post.

So how concerned should Will County residents be?

“That’s a tough one to call,” Reato said. “To put it in perspective, four out of five people who have West Nile virus have no significant symptoms or mild, flu-like symptoms.

“For people with compromised immunity, say people over the age of 50, it can be a significant problem.”

Reato said education and prevention are the best weapons against West Nile, since there is no vaccine or medication to treat the disease.

“In the summertime, it’s tough to tell people they need to wear long sleeves, but that’s the reality of it,” he said. “Definitely, people should be aware. Should they curtail their outdoor activities? Not really.”

The best way to prevent West Nile is to avoid mosquito bites, Reato said. Some tips for steering clear of the insects:

  • Use insect repellents when you go outdoors.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors.  Use air conditioning, if you have it.
  • Empty standing water from items outside your home such as flowerpots, buckets and kiddie pools.

For more information on West Nile and how to prevent it, visit the CDC's West Nile fact sheet or the Will County Health Department website.

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Caring Citizen August 23, 2012 at 11:49 AM
I don't know why the Will County Health dept. says that there have been no cases in Will county. I know of a woman with West Nile in serious condition (she got menningitits from it) at Edward hospital for a couple of weeks now not doing well. As people we need to take action. I read that there is a vaccine for horses......horses??? Why not people? People are dying from this, we have to do something.
Caring Citizen August 23, 2012 at 12:28 PM
I forgot to mention, the woman lives in Will county, that's why I'm questioning that they say that Will county has had no cases of West Nile.
Flora Dora August 23, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Can you find out more about this vaccine and let us know. Thank you.
Child of GOD November 10, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I was one of those people who got West Niles, Was at Edwards for 3 weeks and almost died, then went to Marianjoy for 2 months and 4 day for rehab. I was gone a total of 3 months. I am still healing and this is a very serious disease. I am very thankful to all my family and friends who stood by my husband and girls and are still helping out since I still can't do alot, don't have full use of both my arms. This also affected my face and my vocals (Hope I'll be able to sing again) and m legs. I couldn't walt or stand for 5 weeks and just 2 weeks ago I was able to stand on my own (not walk on my own) DON'T take the chance, make sure you SPRAY. I got bit on the side of my house killing weeds and talking to my neighbor. GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE and I'm getting better every day. NOBODY wants to go through this. Don't take for granted the things you have because one day your whole life can be changed. What we have is a blessing and the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy, but GOD came so that we could have life and life more abundantly. God didn't do this to me, a stupid mosquito did this to me. I also had meningitits which effect the brain and caused the nevers not to function right, that is why I had so much weekness. I never lost my memory. I just don't remember much that happened at Edwards, and I'm thankful for that becaue if was bad. I felt I needed to post this because people don't take it seriouly. Its not something to mess with. Thank you

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