Northwestern Medicine

Late Summer Mosquitoes May Pose Health Risk

Northwestern Memorial Hospital August 23, 2011

Northwestern Memorial Hospital experts urge individuals to take precautions against West Nile Virus

CHICAGO, IL – Experts say the steamy summer weather and significant rainfall in Illinois may be contributing to more mosquitoes in the area, some of which may pose a health risk. Last week, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced the first human West Nile virus cases reported in Illinois in 2011. Health officials say the best way to reduce one’s risk of contracting the virus, is to decrease the number of mosquitoes around homes by eliminating all sources of standing water nearby, and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites like wearing insect repellent.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, West Nile activity in mosquitoes and birds continues to increase in Illinois. The illness can pose a serious health risk, particularly for people age 50 and older. 

“It is important to take precautions in order to protect yourself and your family,” said Teresa Zembower, MD, infectious disease expert at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “A hot summer like we are experiencing increases mosquito activity and the risk of infection.” 

Zembower suggests applying an insect repellent that has been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when outdoors. She also recommends wearing protective clothing with long-sleeves and long-pants while doing chores such as gardening, and removing any puddles or stagnant water around your home. 

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 80 percent of people infected with West Nile Virus never show symptoms, but some may become ill three to 15 days after the bite from an infected mosquito. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis and meningitis, and death are possible.

Learn more about Northwestern Medicine Infectious Disease services.

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