- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Two women with West Nile virus have died, becoming the state’s first deaths from the illness this year, health officials announced Thursday.

One woman was in her 70s and the other was in her 80s, said Chicago Department of Public Health spokesman Ryan Gage. Another two Chicago residents with the virus have recovered.

Statewide, health officials have reported 15 human cases of West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.

“Although we’ve seen a cooler and wetter summer, which has resulted in less West Nile virus activity, these deaths show the virus is circulating and can cause death,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck.

Last year, 11 people died in Illinois after being infected by the virus and 117 Illinois residents were diagnosed with it.

The virus can cause fever, headache and body aches. People age 50 and older are at a higher risk for serious complications.

Health officials recommend removing standing water where mosquitoes can breed, using insect repellent that contains DEET and repairing torn screens on doors and windows to combat the virus.

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