The Will County Health Department recently announced that a horse stabled in northern Will County tested positive for West Nile Virus on Aug. 23.
The incident marked the first Illinois horse to test positive for West Nile Virus this summer, according to the Will County Health Department. Still, Will County Environmental Health Director Elizabeth Bilotta believes it could be a harbinger of things to come.
"Because the mortality rate for horses with West Nile Virus is high, most Illinois horses are vaccinated against the virus and we don't see that many cases," Bilotta said. "When we do see a West Nile Virus-positive horse, it is generally just before human cases appear."
No cases of human West Nile Virus infection have been reported in Will County to date, but virus activity in the mosquito population is increasing. Five mosquito monitoring sites operated by the Health Department's Division of Environmental Health reported positives from Aug. 19-22, Will County Health Department officials said.
Because of increased West Nile Virus activity, the health department strongly recommends the use of insect repellent containing DEET, or other chemical compounds known to deter mosquitoes.
Will County Health Department Media Services Manager Vic Reato also relayed a few safety measures and mosquito repellent tips.
"Always read label instructions before applying repellent," Reato said. "Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn.
"You can also limit your personal West Nile Virus risk by eliminating all sources of stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed. Prime breeding sites include: bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles capable of collecting even small amounts of moisture."
The Will County West Nile information line is available 24 hours daily at 815-740-7631.
Residents can also learn more information about West Nile Virus by visiting the Illinois Department of Public Health's West Nile Virus information pages at: www.idph.state.il.us