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Will County Activates West Nile Virus Hotline

Illinois has had 131 West Nile-related deaths since 2002.

Submitted by the Will County Health Department:

May marks the beginning of the West Nile Virus (WNV) season across Illinois.

County residents can help to minimize the potential for WNV by reporting dead birds to the Will County Health Department. Will County's WNV Information Line is now available for individuals wishing to report dead birds that can help identify the potential for human infections. The 24-hour service is accessible at815-740-7631.

Launched in May 2002, the Information Line enables area residents to access the latest information concerning WNV, report the location of dead birds, and talk to a Health Department representative about the disease during regular weekly business hours. Will County Environmental Health uses dead bird reports to monitor potential WNV hot spots and identify other possible trends requiring Health Department intervention.

Adult crows and blue jays have long been testing priorities, but the Illinois Department of Public Health will accept multiple bird species for laboratory analysis. Other birds suitable for testing include: robins, finches, grackles, sparrows, wrens, swallows, and cardinals.

"WNV poses potential health risks for everyone," according to Will County Environmental Health Director Elizabeth Bilotta. "We are interested in the location of dead birds because that information is one way we are able to assess the potential for local virus activity. Dead bird monitoring and testing are critical parts of the statewide WNV surveillance initiative."

The Health Department will collect a limited number of reported dead birds and submit them to the state for analysis. You can view pictures of bird testing priorities by visiting the Environmental Health page at www.willcountyhealth.org.

WNV is a mosquito-borne disease capable of producing encephalitis and meningitis, potentially fatal inflammations of the brain and spinal cord. Residents can minimize personal risk by avoiding outdoor activity at dusk and near dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

Wearing light-colored long sleeves and eliminating potential mosquito breeding sites on your property can also reduce personal risk. Residents are also advised to use insect repellent containing DEET, or other chemical compounds that deter mosquitoes when spending time outdoors.

There were more than 2,370 human WNV cases and 114 fatalities reported nationally during 2013. Fatalities were reported in 29 states.

Illinois has reported 2,091 cumulative WNV human infections and 131 fatalities since 2002. The state totals include 66 Will County cases and two local fatalities.

For more information about WNV, visit www.idph.state.il.us or www.cdc.gov.

This Will County Health Department initiative is made possible through funding provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

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