The threat of contracting West Nile Virus is likely imminent, as mosquito pools in nine suburban Cook County communities have already tested positive for the disease.
Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) officials say now is the time to take simple, but effective precautions to help protect you and your family against contracting West Nile Virus from the Culex mosquito, which carries the disease.
After recent heavy rains, Amy Poore, director of public relations for the Cook County Department of Public Health, says residents should empty any items in and around their homes that have collected water, such as old tires, bird baths, baby pools, buckets and other objects.
Poore said these areas provide the most ideal breeding ground for the Culex mosquito.
“This is really the time to pay attention, you can reduce your risk by making sure there are no tears in your screens at home, wear repellant [with DEET, oil of lemon Eucalyptus or Picaridin] between dusk and dawn and keep your gutters clean,” Poore said.
Residents also are advised to keep yard grass cut short, because tall grass also is an ideal area where the Culex mosquito can breed.
Poore said surveillance to identify Culex mosquitos already has been conducted by the CCDPH, in addition to Mosquito Abatement districts in Cook County. Mosquito traps are set in suburban Cook County communities to determine if the insects are carrying West Nile Virus.
Though there are no reported human cases yet in Cook County, Poore said more than 2,000 mosquito pools already have tested positive in Wheeling, Evanston, Skokie, Alsip, Evergreen Park, Forest Park, Hillside, Hodgkins and Oak Park.
Because of the lapse time between trapping the mosquitos and determining if they are indeed carrying West Nile, Poore said it is possible that mosquitos carrying the virus are spreading to neighboring communities - so taking precautions now is even more important.
Cook County residents can also help to curb the spread of the Culex mosquito by reporting any dead birds they observe. Poore said many times, mosquitos feed on dead birds that are carrying West Nile.
If you observe a dead bird near you, you are urged to report it to the CCDPH online or call 708-633-8025 immediately.
For more information on West Nile Virus and how to protect you and your family, visit the Cook County Department of Public Health website.