Officials work to prevent West Nile in Champaign, Vermilion counties

Champaign and Vermilion counties have each received $9,000 to prevent the spread of West Nile virus this summer. The Illinois Department of Health’s funding will be used for testing dead birds for the virus and training townships to apply larvicide packets to standing water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

Champaign County also received $12,000 from the public health district for surveillance and control of the disease and has applied for an additional $14,000 grant, said Michael Flanagan, sanitarian with the Champaign County Health Department.

Dead birds reported by citizens are tested for the virus to determine if it has become present in the region. Champaign County asks anyone who finds a dead bird to call the health department at (217) 352-7961.

Wearing long sleeves and insect repellent with DEET when outdoors can help people to avoid catching the virus, Kolby Riggle,director of Environmental Health in Vermilion County, said. Symptoms of the virus include fever and achy muscles.

“I hope this will not be a bad summer (for West Nile), but that is why we are doing surveillance,” Flanagan said.

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    Champaign County also received $12,000 from the public health district for surveillance and control of the disease and has applied for an additional $14,000 grant, said Michael Flanagan, sanitarian with the Champaign County Health Department.

    The state received 101 reports of people infected with West Nile last year. Four of those cases proved fatal. Champaign and Vermilion counties received no reports of human contamination, but three out of 10 birds tested in Vermilion County tested positive for the disease.

    West Nile originates in birds but is spread to other animals, including humans, through mosquito bites. The virus cannot be spread through casual contact.

    “You can’t get West Nile from kissing a dead bird,” Kolby Riggle, director of Environmental Health in Vermilion County, said.

    The virus peaks during the summer because the warm temperatures make for a great breeding environment for mosquitoes. Riggle said the virus is usually found in birds starting in June, while most human cases are reported in July and August.

    Dead birds that citizens report are tested for the virus to determine if it has become present in the region. Champaign County asks that anyone who finds a dead bird call the health department at 352-7961.

    Riggle said Vermilion County also traps mosquitoes with standing water pools and tests them for the virus every two to three days. Riggle said only one pool has contained the virus in the last five years of testing.

    Wearing long sleeves and insect repellent with DEET when outdoors, especially during the early morning and early evening, can held people to avoid catching the virus, Riggle said. Symptoms of the virus include fever and achy muscles. People older than 55 are most susceptible to the disease.

    “I hope this will not be a bad summer (for West Nile), but that is why we are doing surveillance,” Flanagan said.