STERLING – Mosquitoes in Sterling and Rock Falls tested positive for the West Nile virus, the Whitesdie County Health Department said in a news release Friday.
The bugs were collected late last week near Rock Falls High School and on the west edge of Sterling.
“The mild winter, recent 90-degree weather and drier conditions are likely contributing factors to this early finding,” Gene Johnston, the department’s environmental health director, said in the release.
Mosquitoes transmit the virus after feeding on an infected bird. About one in five people bitten contract West Nile, usually a mild case that brings fever, headache, and body aches. In rare cases encephalitis, meningitis, and death are possible.
People older than 50 and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for a more severe case.
Those outside between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, should wear shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and apply insect repellents that includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin. Check with a doctor before using repellents on infants, though.
In addition, keep doors and windows fitted with screens and eliminate all sources of standing water, where mosquitoes breed.
Those who find a dead bird are asked to call their health department, 815-772 7411 in Whiteside County, 815-284-3371 in Lee County and 815-562-6976 in Ogle County.
Go to idph.state.il.us for more information about West Nile virus surveillance and prevention.