June’s wet weather could present a buggy problem as we head into what are typically warmer and drier months of July and August, according to an official with the DuPage County Health Department.
Mosquitoes love the wet weather and anyone spending time outdoors has probably had an encounter with the pests. Those mosquitoes are pretty much pests; they will bite, but not cause much harm other than make a person itch.
Once the weather turns dry, a different kind of mosquito begins to breed, the Culex pipiens. This specific type of mosquito breeds in stagnant water and also spreads West Nile virus, said David W. Hass, communications manager for the DuPage County Health Department.
“We could go into a dry spell at any time, the potential is there for a lot of stagnant water,” Hass said. “But nobody knows what will happen for sure. The potential is there for hot, dry weather and stagnant water to create conditions for West Nile mosquitoes.”
The West Nile virus is known as a flavivirus, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Researchers believe West Nile virus is spread when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person.
July and August tend to be warmer and drier creating conditions perfect for the West Nile-carrying mosquitoes, Hass said. The significant rainfall the area has experienced recently creates perfect conditions for the mosquitoes should a dry spell occur.
People should continue to go about their lives, taking precautions such as wearing mosquito repellant with DEET or protective clothing.
“Almost anything does help,” Hass said. “The main thing is that people try to protect themselves.”
West Nile virus is something in the environment and is not going to go away, Hass said. The DuPage County Health Department knows that each year it will receive reports of cases of West Nile virus.
The concern is that the general public gets frightened by the name and Hass doesn’t want people to curtail their outdoor activities, whether it's gardening, going to picnics or baseball games.
Those most at risk for becoming severely ill from West Nile virus are usually over 50, have a compromised immune system or other health problems, he said. If a healthy person gets West Nile virus they may never even realize it because they may suffer only a minor headache.
The DuPage County Health Department sets traps for mosquitoes to do surveillance, Hass said. The county will set traps around the county and gather mosquitoes, testing them for the virus.
If any of the mosquitoes tests positive for West Nile that information will appear on a map that residents can find online.
The DuPage County Health Department does not spray for mosquitoes, which is left to municipalities or mosquito abatement districts.
In Naperville the city has crews monitor mosquitoes every week to check traps for any that might be carrying any harmful viruses, according to a news release from the city.
City crews also check for the effectiveness of larval control and provide early warnings when the adult populations are rising and to test for West Nile, according to the news release. If such situations present themselves, the city then uses the safest chemicals it can in low volume and sprays only when necessary.
Inspections around Naperville are done to remove standing water and treat ponds, marsh areas and catch basins throughout the city with chemicals, the news release said.
The DuPage County Health Department encourages residents to contact the department if they find a freshly dead bird —that has not decomposed, Hass said. The department will send someone out to collect the bird for testing. Last year, 30 of the state’s 102 counties reported a West Nile positive bird, mosquito, horse or human case, according to the department.
So far this summer, only a few cases have been reported around the state, Hass said, adding that we have yet to enter the peak season for mosquitoes and human cases of the virus.
The DuPage County Health Department offers some precautions for avoiding West Nile or any other mosquito-borne illness including:
• 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, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
• Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
• Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flower pots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.
Source: DuPage County Health Department
Here are a list of symptoms related to a mild disease, generally called West Nile fever:
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of appetite
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
These symptoms usually last three to six days.
More severe forms of disease, which can be life threatening, may be called West Nile encephalitis or West Nile meningitis, depending on what part of the body is affected. The following symptoms can occur, and need prompt attention:
- Confusion or changes in ability to think clearly.
- Loss of consciousness or coma.
- Muscle weakness.
- Stiff neck.
- Weakness of one arm or leg.
Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information