Mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus (WNV) have been detected this week in Canyon and Payette counties, prompting public health officials to remind people to take precautions to fight the bite. The positive mosquitoes are the first detected in the state this year.
“West Nile Virus can cause serious illness so it is very important that people take precautions to avoid bites and mosquito-proof their homes,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, from the Idaho Division of Public Health. “With our recent warm weather we could see an increase in mosquito activity over the holiday, so we urge people to be careful.”
WNV is usually contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito; it is not spread from person-to-person through casual contact. Symptoms of infection often include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach, and back. In some cases the virus can cause severe illness, especially in people over the age of 50.
To reduce the likelihood of infection, avoid mosquitoes, particularly between dusk and dawn when they are most active. In addition, you should:
- Cover up exposed skin when outdoors and apply DEET or other EPA-approved insect repellent 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 your property; check and drain toys, trays or pots outdoors which may hold water.
- Change bird baths and static decorative ponds weekly as they may provide a suitable mosquito habitat.
Last year, 13 human cases of West Nile infection were reported, with five people suffering from potentially serious neuroinvasive infections. A total of 15 Idaho counties detected WNV activity during 2015.
No deaths were reported last year, however, it is difficult to predict the impact WNV will have from year-to-year. In 2006, Idaho led the nation in West Nile human illnesses with almost 1,000 infections, which contributed to 23 deaths.
WNV does not usually affect domestic animals, including dogs and cats, but it can cause severe illness in horses and certain species of birds. Although there is no vaccine available for people, there are several vaccines available for horses. People are advised to keep their horses vaccinated annually.
For more information, visit www.westnile.idaho.gov.