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Illinois official warns COVID-19 symptoms could be similar to West Nile Virus

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Friday, September 11, 2020  |  Article  |  By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

Health (49)

(The Center Square) – Fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. In addition to a dry cough, they’re all the common symptoms of COVID-19. But, those are also the hallmarks of West Nile Virus, which has struck its first Illinois resident. 

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in Illinois for 2020 on Wednesday. A DuPage County woman in her 40s became ill in mid-August and was confirmed to have WNV. 

In 2019, IDPH reported 28 human cases, including one death. The department said human cases are often underreported because many infected with West Nile Virus are asymptomatic.

Local public health officials are the front-line against the virus. In their questioning of a potentially infected resident, they often ask about many symptoms mirroring COVID-19.

“Fever, headache, muscle ache,” said Gloria Spear, director of Environmental Health at the Coles County Health Department. “Those are all common symptoms of West Nile Virus and COVID-19.”

West Nile Virus is transmitted via the bite of a Culex pipiens mosquito, commonly called a house mosquito, after it has fed on an infected bird.

Spear says people are often surprised about how little water is needed to spawn mosquito larvae.

“The cap off of a pop bottle is enough,” she said. “If it’s turned upside down and there’s water in it, mosquitoes can breed in it.” 

IDPH suggests checking windows and doors for proper seals, wearing long pants and sleeves as well as insect repellent that contains DEET, Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, ensuring there’s no sitting water in your area, and reporting dead birds to the local county health department. 

“While we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also remember to take steps to protect our health from other illnesses,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.  “In an effort to decrease our risk of contracting COVID-19 from indoor settings, many of us are spending more time outdoors while still socially distancing.  As we enjoy the outdoors, we need to protect ourselves from other viruses carried by mosquitoes by wearing insect repellent and getting rid of standing water around our homes.”