An Oak Park resident has contracted the West Nile virus, the village reported last Friday.

The person is recovering and is not in danger of dying, said Georgeen Polyak, the Oak Park public health director.

“This is the riskiest time of year for West Nile virus,” Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, said in a statement. “Mosquitos that carry the virus peak around late summer, so everybody needs to be vigilant against mosquito bites-the season is not over.”

The Illinois Public Health Department announced 10 new cases of the virus last week, four of which were in suburban Cook County. Four more were in Chicago, another was in DuPage County, and one was Downstate.

Suburban Cook County victims included a man in his 60s with West Nile virus fever, and two women in their 40s and a man in his 70s with the more serious version of West Nile, known as neuroinvasive disease, according to the IPHD.

Polyak said the Oak Parker with the disease is younger than 65, but would not give any identifying information for privacy concerns. Infectious disease patients are not normally made public at all, she said. However, West Nile is unique in that all people are at risk of infection through mosquito bites.

This is the second recorded human case of West Nile in Oak Park, Polyak said.

West Nile fever symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands, according to the state. While the illness can be as short as a few days, even healthy people have reported having symptoms for a year or more, officials said.

Neuroinvasive disease includes West Nile encephalitis or meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis, and symptoms may include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

It is estimated that about 1 in 5 people who become infected with the virus will develop West Nile fever, while approximately 1 in 150 will develop a more severe disease.

Most people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with West Nile virus will not develop any type of illness. However, you cannot know ahead of time if you’ll get sick when infected, according to the state.

There have been 25 cases reported in Illinois this year. The virus claimed its first human victim Aug. 23.

Polyak said the most important line of defense is people covering up and not going outside without wearing bug spray, especially between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

Protecting yourself against mosquito bites “really needs to be a part of our way of life at this point,” Polyak said. “It’s not a disease you want to trifle with.”

Oak Parkers can expect additional street spraying for mosquitos in coming weeks by the Des Plaines Valley Mosquito Abatement District if virus levels remain high, Polyak said.

“Spraying to kill adult mosquitos is the control tool of last resort, but that is exactly where we are right now,” she said. “Weather conditions have spawned a bumper crop of disease-carrying mosquitoes, and we need to use every tool in our arsenal to combat them.”


West Nile in Illinois in ’06

25 Human cases

1 Human death (19 in U.S.)

53 Average age of human cases

10 Age of youngest human case

81 Age of oldest human case

59 Counties where the virus has been found

116 Birds testing positive with West Nile

1,653 Batches of mosquitoes testing positive

0 Positive horses and other animals

Source: Illinois Dept. of Public Health

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