PAXTON, Ill. (WCIA) — The Ford County Public Health Department announced on Wednesday that it recently detected the first positive sample of West Nile Virus in the county.

Health officials said the positive sample came from a bird and that it is an indication that West Nile Virus is circulating in the area.

“Individuals should take appropriate preventive measures to protect their health,” said Nancy Mandamuna, Environmental Health Specialist for the Ford County Public Health Department.

Humans can become infected with West Nile Virus by being bitten by mosquitoes that picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Common symptoms include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches, but four out of five infected people will not show any symptoms. In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis or encephalitis and even death can occur. People older than 50 are at a higher risk for severe illness.

“The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include practicing the three ‘Rs’ – reduce, repel and report.”

Specific steps that can be taken for each ‘R’ are listed as such:

  • Reduce exposure
    • Avoiding being outdoors when mosquitoes are most-active: between dusk and dawn.
    • Make sure doors and windows are shut and have tight-fitting screens; replace any holes or tears in them.
    • Eliminate sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed: bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and other containers
  • Repel mosquitoes
    • Wear shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts
    • Apply insect repellant that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535
  • Report mosquito breeding grounds
    • Contact municipal governments the locations of stagnant water: roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations

Surveillance for West Nile Virus includes lab tests of mosquito batches, dead perching birds and testing of sick horses and humans with West Nile symptoms. Anyone who finds a dead bird between May 1 and Oct. 15 that appears to have died from natural causes should report it to their local health department.

The Ford County Public Health Department can be contacted by calling 217-379-9281. Further information about public health issues can be found on the FCPHD website and further information about West Nile Virus can be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health website.