DANVILLE – Now that warmer weather has arrived, the Vermilion County Health Department seeks the public’s assistance with the collection of dead birds to test for West Nile Virus (WNV).

Each summer, the department collects dead birds and mosquitoes for testing for the presence of the virus.

“Finding out if the virus is present in Vermilion County allows us to alert residents to take precautions when they are outside and make sure their homes are free of places where mosquitoes breed,” Public Health Administrator Douglas Toole said in a press release.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, with the help of the local health departments, reported 14 human cases of the virus statewide in 2019. This was a decrease from the 176 cases reported in 2018. The total number of positive birds tested and the total number of mosquitos tested for WNV and found positive in 2019 was down by 39 percent from what was reported in 2018.

In 2019, the Vermilion County Health Department dispersed 11 mosquito traps throughout the county. All mosquitos that were collected were tested for the virus and were found negative. The department collected three birds and submitted them for laboratory testing. All birds tested were found negative for the virus.

Between June 1 and Oct. 15, the Vermilion County Health Department will accept a limited number of dead birds for testing for the West Nile Virus. The State of Illinois has prioritized the type of birds that should be collected for testing. Those priorities are: Crows and blue jays, first priority; finches, sparrows and robins, second priority; and cardinals, blackbirds, starlings and wrens, third priority.

Not all dead birds will be accepted. The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends that the caller assure the following are true:

• The bird is dead no longer than 24 hours. There are no signs of decomposition (maggots, strong odor, bloated or deflated eyes).

• The bird shows no sign it died of causes other than disease. No obvious wounds, missing parts or crushed carcass.

• The birds are one of the types listed under the three priorities.

The Illinois Department of Public Health states that most people are not affected when bitten by a West Nile-infected mosquito, but some people, including those who are over the age of 50 and who may have chronic health problems, are most at risk from the West Nile virus.

The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around one’s home and neighborhood and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Here are a couple of suggestions:

• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.

• When outdoors wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.

— Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.

--Eliminate all sources of standing water that can support mosquito breeding, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles. In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.

Now is the time to survey one’s property to identify areas where standing water may accumulate. The standing water must be eliminated and not allowed to stand more than five days. Invert containers or drill holes in the bottom of the containers that are left exposed to the weather to prevent water from accumulating and standing for more than five days. Keep gutters cleared.

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