CHICAGO (WMBD) — The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPF) reported the first West Nile Virus-related death of 2022 in Illinois Tuesday.

According to an IDPH press release, the death was a person in their 70s in Cook County, who became ill at the beginning of August. CDC lab testing confirmed the diagnosis of West Nile.

“This unfortunate first reported death of the year from West Nile virus in Illinois is a reminder that this disease poses a risk, especially to those who have weakened immune systems,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “While the weather is warm and mosquitos are breeding, we should all take precautions to protect ourselves from mosquitoes and the viruses they carry by wearing insect repellent and eliminating standing water around our homes where mosquitos breed.”

So far in 2022, there have been positive mosquito batches in 30 Illinois counties and eight birds have tested positive in six counties.

West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites, and common symptoms include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. People older than 50 and immunocompromised individuals are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.

To fight the bite, IDPH encourages the public to practice the three “R’s: reduce repel, and 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 light-colored, long-sleeved shirt, and apply an EPA-registered insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR 3535 according to the label instructions. 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 local health department or city government may be able to add larvicide to the water, which will kill any mosquito larvae.

More information is available on IDPH’s website.