Officials warn of insect-related illnesses as hot weather sets in

SHARE Officials warn of insect-related illnesses as hot weather sets in

As the weather becomes balmier, state health officials are warning Illinoisans about insect bites that could cause serious illnesses like West Nile virus or Lyme disease.

The Illinois Department of Health says warm weather means the onset of West Nile Virus, carried by mosquitoes, and a slew of insect-related diseases, carried by ticks, according to statements from the health agency issued Saturday.

Although mosquitoes may be more noticeable in rainy conditions, the ones carrying West Nile operate in hot, dry weather, IDPH said. They breed in stagnant water, such as street catch basins or ditches.

Since 2002, when Illinois first began seeing human West Nile cases, the virus has contributed to 133 deaths and has infected a total 2,137 people, IDPH Director and Dr. Nirav D. Shah said in the statement. Birds are the other common victims of the virus.

Aside from wearing protective clothing and insect repellant, health officials suggest having tight door and window fittings to avoid mosquito bites, as well as limiting time outdoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

IDPH also says residents should report dead birds to local health departments.

Tick bites can transmit illnesses like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and other insect-bite related diseases like tularemia, babesiosis — which affects red blood cells — and ehrlichiosis, according to IDPH and the Centers for Disease Control website.

Health officials suggest avoiding tick bites by wearing light-colored or protective clothing, applying insect repellant containing 10 to 30 perecent DEET to clothes and walking away from weeds and bushes on trails.

Remove a tick by grasping it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible, pull it out straight and immediately wash the site, IDPH advises.

More information can be found at IDPH’s website on pest control.

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