It’s that time again to remove empty planters, clean gutters, empty and remove abandoned swimming pools. Warm weather has reached Vermilion County, which means its time for mosquitoes.

The Vermilion County Health Department again asks the public for assistance with the collection of dead birds to test for West Nile Virus. The department each summer 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,” said Public Health Administrator Douglas Toole in a release.

In 2018, the Illinois Department of Public Health, with the help of the local health departments, reported there were 137 human cases of the virus. This represents a 52 percent increase from the number of cases (90) in 2017. Seventy-five percent of the human cases were reported in the Cook County area and 13 percent reported in the DuPage County. Sixty-three of the 102 counties in Illinois were found positive for the virus in humans, birds and mosquitoes.

In 2018, the Vermilion County Health Department dispersed 11 mosquito traps throughout the county. Mosquito collected were tested for the virus. All mosquitoes tested were found negative for the virus. The department collected three birds and submitted them for laboratory testing. All birds tested were found negative for the virus.

Now through Oct. 15, the Vermilion County Health Department will accept a limited number of dead birds, 5, 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: first priority, crows and blue jays; second priority, finches, sparrows and robins; third priority, cardinals, black birds, starlings and wrens.

Not all dead birds will be accepted for testing. 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 says 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 your home and neighborhood and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Here are some 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 your 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, drill holes in bottom of containers left expose to the weather to prevent water from accumulating and stand for over five days. Keep gutters cleared.

To report a dead bird, found in Vermilion County, call the Vermilion County Health department at 431 -2662, Ext. 247. Please call 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Additional information is available on the health department's website at www.vchd.org.