PAXTON — The Ford County Public Health Department is urging residents to be aware of potential West Nile virus activity in the area and to take steps to protect themselves and their families from the virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

West Nile virus is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. Seasonal outbreaks often occur in local areas that can vary from year to year. Many factors impact when and where outbreaks occur, such as weather, numbers of mosquitoes that spread the virus, and human behavior.

Illinois experienced record rainfall this spring, which could enhance the number of maturing mosquito eggs.

The best way to prevent West Nile virus disease is to avoid mosquito bites and to practice the three “R’s” – reduce, repel, report:

Reduce — 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. Eliminate, or refresh each week, all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, old tires, and any other containers.

Repel — When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.

Report— Report locations where you see water sitting stagnant for more than a week, such as roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.  The Ford County Public Health Department may be able to add larvicide to the water, which will kill any mosquito eggs. Residents can contact Christy Wallace or Nancy Mandamuna at 217-379-9281 for more information.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Fewer than 1 percent will develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.

People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions — such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and organ transplants — are at greater risk for serious illness.

There are no medications to treat, or vaccines to prevent, West Nile virus infection. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks.

In more severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication and nursing care. Anyone who has symptoms that cause concern should contact a health care provider.

For more information on West Nile virus, people can visit Illinois Department of Public Health’s website at www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/west-nile-virus.