By Tom Schlueter
Kane County Health Department
In 2012, we saw the second-highest number of West Nile virus cases in Kane County since record keeping on the disease began in 2002; 13. Why were there so many? The combination of heat and drought created the perfect conditions for the species of mosquito that carries the disease.
After the brutal winter we’ve just experienced, it may seem silly to think about a hot, dry summer, but that’s what we have to do. We have to look ahead. That’s why starting in May the Kane County
Health Department will be placing mosquito traps throughout the county as a way to monitor the activity of the Culex mosquito, the species that carries the disease. We typically begin seeing evidence of West Nile later in the summer as the weather heats up. Last year we saw our first evidence in July when the first mosquitoes tested positive. However, we have seen surrounding counties find their first evidence as early as May.
During a wet spring and early summer, we might see an influx of mosquitoes, but they won’t be the type that carries West Nile disease. They may be annoying, they many cause you to stay inside, but the floodwater, or nuisance mosquito that breeds in high water won’t give you West Nile disease.
The Culex mosquito requires hot, dry weather to reproduce. Its eggs incubate in warm, stagnant water. In fact, periods of heavy rain can actually inhibit the reproduction of the Culex by stirring up the water where the eggs are. That is why it is important to inspect our yards for spots that have, or can have, areas of standing water: old tires, clogged gutters, bird baths, etc.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Only about two persons out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, but serious illness, such as encephalitis and meningitis, and death are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.
The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Beginning in late May, you can monitor West Nile activity right along with us by visiting our website here.