As the medical community and the public learn more about the mosquito-borne Zika virus, experts at the Illinois Poison Center (IPC) remind Illinois residents to protect themselves against mosquito bites each summer. Although mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus has not been reported in Illinois or the continental U.S. to date, mosquitoes can transmit other diseases, including West Nile Virus. The virus has already been identified in 18 Illinois counties so far this year, underscoring the importance of taking steps to avoid exposure to mosquitoes carrying the disease.
To stay safe and have fun this summer, follow the three R’s: Reduce, Repel and Report.
Reduce exposure to mosquitoes.
Repel mosquitoes with insect repellent.
Report areas where mosquitoes breed. In communities that have mosquito control programs, report areas of stagnant water, like roadside ditches and flooded backyards, to the local municipal government.
The IPC handles calls on mosquito bites, misuse of repellants and much more.
Alphaviruses are viruses that attack the brain. There are three main types: 1) eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE); 2) Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE); and 3) western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE).
Outbreaks of alphaviruses usually occur in the summer. A person can come into contact with an alphavirus by being bit by a mosquito.
Please note: Just because you come into contact with an alphavirus does not mean you will get sick from it.
Most infections with these viruses produce a fever, headache and muscle pain. Severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, seizures, coma and possibly even death can occur.
EEE, the most serious of the infections, has a high death rate (up to 35 percent). It also has a high rate of causing problems with the brain. VEE and WEE are less likely to cause brain-related symptoms. VEE has a death rate of less than 1 percent; WEE has a death rate of less than 3 percent.
There is no specific treatment or established cure for alphaviruses. Supportive care (intravenous fluids, medicine to control fever and pain) is the standard treatment.
There are vaccines available but there have been problems with their success. New vaccines are in development.
If you think that you or someone you know may have come into contact with an alphavirus, contact the local county health department right away.
If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of an alphavirus, call your health care provider or the Illinois Poison Center right away. The toll-free number for the poison center is 1-800-222-1222.