West Nile discovered in region
JACKSON COUNTY, Ill. — At the Jackson County Health Department, West Nile surveillance is done every year from April to October. Each week during that time, mosquitoes are trapped and tested.
Usually, the tests turn up nothing. But this week, Director of Environmental Health Bart Hagston discovered West Nile.
A batch of mosquitoes located several miles south of Carbondale tested positive for the virus. It makes Jackson County the ninth in the state to have a positive test this year.
So far, there have been no reports of the West Nile Virus infecting any people in our region.
Hagston said of the discovery, "It is not completely unusual."
It is the culex species, which commonly carries the virus. Lately, he said they have been right at home.
"They love hot, dry weather."
To fend off those and other mosquitoes, Hagston advises avoiding going outside at dawn and dusk, the time mosquitoes are most active. Also, wear long sleeve shirts and pants. But he said the most important thing is to use mosquito repellents.
Still, the health department warned it might not be enough. It turns out there are just more mosquitoes this year.
"It could be due to the increased temperatures over the winter," Hagston said. "It didn't get as cold. That's one theory but we are seeing increased numbers."
He said with those numbers comes a bigger risk.
"People need to protect themselves from all kinds of mosquitoes, just to be safe."
Hagston said four out of five people bitten by mosquitoes carrying the virus will never exhibit any symptoms. But that one person who does will experience fever, chills and diarrhea.
The symptoms are a lot like the flu but should not be ignored. Those over 50 and with weakened immune systems are especially at risk