West Nile virus reported in Idaho

Mosquitoes in West Richland test positive for West Nile virus
image from RAL
Mosquitoes (Atlanta)

BOISE, Idaho — West Nile virus, as well as positive mosquito pools and infections in horses, are on the rise in Idaho and people are being encouraged to take precautions.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said 13 counties have detected the virus, mostly in the south and southwestern regions of the state. It has also been found in the Salmon area of Lehmi and Franklin counties, which don’t often report the virus.

As of Sept. 1, the department said six infections, including one death, have been reported in the state.

“The conditions are right for mosquitoes to transmit the virus now until a killing frost eliminates the mosquito populations,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Idaho state public health veterinarian in the department. “Idahoans should assume that WNV is a risk anytime and anywhere mosquitoes are active.”

The department said the virus usually happens in August and September, but can be difficult to predict from year to year. In 2006, the state had more illnesses from the virus than any other state, with almost 1,000 infections and 23 deaths. During more recent seasons, the department said virus activity has been extremely low.

“We strongly encourage Idahoans to ‘Fight the Bite’ of mosquitoes to protect themselves and their families, no matter where they live in the state,” Tengelsen said. “This includes wearing insect repellent and protective clothing in addition to reducing standing water around our gardens and homes where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.”

The virus is usually contracted from mosquito bites and doesn’t spread from person-to-person. Symptoms often include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. It can cause severe illness, especially in people 50-years-old and older.

To protect against the virus, the department said people should avoid mosquitoes, particularly between dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active.

They said people should take the following precautions:

  • Cover up exposed skin when outdoors and apply DEET or other EPA-approved insect repellents to exposed skin and clothing. Carefully follow instructions on the product label, especially for children.
  • Insect-proof your home by repairing or replacing screens.
  • Reduce standing water on property; check and drain toys, trays, or pots outdoors that can hold water.
  • Change birdbaths, static decorative ponds, and animal water tanks weekly to reduce mosquito habitats.

The virus usually doesn’t affect domestic animals, but can cause severe illness in horses and some birds. Although there is no vaccine for people, there are several vaccines for horses.

More information can be found here.

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