WATERLOO, Ill. (KMOX) – The first bird to test positive for West Nile virus in Illinois this year made its home in the Metro East.
The Monroe County Health Department announced that a starling collected in Waterloo two weeks ago tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus.
Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Health Department says while West Nile is becoming more common and now makes an annual appearance in Illinois, the disease is still a very serious threat, especially those with compromised immune systems.
Arnold says West Nile Virus carry mosquitoes like “hot dry condition” where there is a lot of “stagnant pools of water.” So recent rains and flooding shouldn’t increase the prevalence of West Nile, but she says the spread of West Nile from mosquitoes to birds means it’s only a matter of time before the first human case shows up.
The first mosquitoes carrying West Nile were found in May in Cook County. Since then, West Nile’s been found in animals in a total of 17 counties.
Last year, the virus was found in 55 of the state’s counties and nearly 300 people contracted the illness. Twelve died.
Arnold recommends you wear insect repellent containing DEET and make sure there is not standing water on your property, where mosquitoes can breed.