First mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus reported in Cook County

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The first mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus recently were found in Cook County, officials said.

Representatives of the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District said mosquitoes collected last Wednesday from one of the district’s traps tested positive for the virus Thursday. The mosquitoes were collected in Skokie.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the West Nile virus is the “leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States” and most commonly appears during the summer and into the fall.

While there are no vaccines or medications to prevent or treat the virus, most people who are infected do not feel ill. Only one in five develop a fever and other low-risk symptoms, but one of every 150 people infected can potentially develop serious, even fatal, symptoms.

In 2020, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 42 human cases of the virus and four deaths. In 2021, the health department reported 61 total cases and five deaths. According to a news release from the health department, seven Illinois counties had reported cases of the West Nile virus as of June 23.

“West Nile virus is a serious illness, and we want to remind everyone to protect themselves from mosquito bites at this time of year when so many of us are spending more time outdoors,” said Amaal Tokars, acting director of the health department, in the release.

Risk for infection remains low, but the abatement district issued a series of recommendations for residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites, including wearing dark, loose-fitting clothing and insect repellent and avoiding the outdoors during peak mosquito feeding times — dawn and dusk.

The abatement district also recommended residents regularly check for and eliminate standing water, saying, “If it can hold water, it can breed mosquitoes.”