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First reports of West Nile virus in McLean county

Written by on September 6, 2023

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. –  In East Bloomington, there have been some of the first reports of the West Nile virus.  The virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the United States. Senior Environmental Health Practitioner of McLean County Angie Crawford spoke about the West Nile virus.

Crawford said, “This virus is transmitted from the bite of a mosquito.” 

The McClean County Health Department (MCHD) said over the past four weeks they have reported dead bird samples that have tested positive for the virus in the 61701, 61761, 61748 and 61705 zip code area of Bloomington-Normal.

Birds like crows and robins typically carry the virus.  When dead bird samples are collected and the virus is present, the MCHD will send it off to the state laboratory for analysis. When the virus is present in McClean County, the health department sends out a press release of where the virus was located so people can be aware of it.

“In the area specifically where the virus is tested positive, the health department will go out to the neighborhood and provide informational door hangers to each home to give tips on how to prevent mosquito bites and things you can do to prevent the growth of mosquitoes on your property,” said Crawford.

Symptoms of the virus include body aches, fatigue and sometimes a fever.  People over 50 are more prone to having severe symptoms. Crawford explained what can happen to the body if West Nile becomes fatal.

“The virus causes encephalitis, which is the inflammation of the brain,” she said. 

Rest, fluids and over-the-counter pain medications may relieve some symptoms.  No vaccine or specific medicines are available for this virus.  The best way to prevent West Nile is to protect yourself from mosquito bites.  

The MCHD promotes the 3 R’s to halt the spread of West Nile virus.  The first R stands for reduce, one way to reduce the number of mosquitos is to remove areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed.  The second R is to repel, to repel the mosquitoes by using repellent.  The third R is to report, citizens can report if any dead birds or areas of stagnant water are present.