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Suburban man in his 80s has year’s first confirmed case of West Nile virus in Cook County, health officials say

A man in his 80s has been confirmed as having this year’s first human case of West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne disease, in Cook County, according to public health officials.

The man, who lives in suburban Cook County, became ill in mid-June and tested positive for West Nile virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Cook County Department of Public Health confirmed Wednesday. The man was hospitalized for the virus but has been released to a rehabilitation facility, the public health agencies said in a joint news release.

“We all must be vigilant against West Nile virus this time of year,” said Kiran Joshi, senior medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health. “It is important that we all follow basic prevention tips to avoid more cases of this virus.”

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of certain mosquitoes, which typically contract the disease by feeding on infected birds, according to the county health department. Illness onset may occur three to 15 days after being bitten, and common symptoms in humans include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches.

However, most people infected with West Nile virus may be asymptomatic and never become ill, the Cook County health department said. The disease can affect all ages, but people over the age of 50 and those with a chronic disease may be at increased risk for serious complications.

The county health department said the threat of West Nile virus in the area was increasing in late July, compared with reports from June that said the threat was “low.” The number of infected mosquitoes — 10.8% of those sampled — is also increasing, according to weekly reports by the department.

Entomologists with the region’s mosquito abatement agencies have said droughtlike conditions in early summer may have delayed the emergence of West Nile vectors into late July and August and are optimistic that a severe West Nile virus season can be avoided.

“West Nile virus is something we see every year in Illinois and it is important people take steps to prevent mosquito bites,” Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

Last year, the state health department reported 42 human cases of West Nile virus and four deaths.

People can best protect themselves from mosquitoes by applying insect repellent and dressing in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt if outside for long stretches of time, according to public health directives. Standing water, in places like buckets, tarps or birdbaths, should be dumped out regularly because it is ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, entomologists said.

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