The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is reporting the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in Illinois for 2021.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed today that a Cook County resident in his 80s who became ill in mid-June tested positive for West Nile virus.

Image/Robert Herriman

“While we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also remember to take steps to protect our health from other illnesses,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “West Nile virus is something we see every year in Illinois and it is important people take steps to prevent mosquito bites and the viruses they carry by wearing insect repellent and getting rid of standing water around their homes.”

Last year, 26 counties in Illinois reported a West Nile virus positive mosquito batch, bird, horse,  and/or human case.  For the 2020 season, IDPH reported 42 human cases (although human cases are underreported), including four deaths.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a Culex pipiens mosquito, commonly called a house mosquito, which has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.  Common symptoms include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches.  Symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks.  However, four out of five people infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms.  In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis, or even death, can occur.  People older than 60 and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.