Idaho’s first 2016 human case of West Nile virus (WNV) infection was confirmed in an Elmore County woman in southern Idaho. The woman, in her 30s, is recovering at home from West Nile fever.
Besides the Elmore County human infection, eight other Idaho counties have detected WNV in mosquitoes since June 28th. An infection of a horse from Payette County also was reported this week.
“West Nile activity has ramped up significantly during the last few weeks across southern Idaho, so people are strongly encouraged to fight the bite of mosquitoes to protect themselves and their families,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian. “This is a good warning for all of us to take protective measures, including wearing insect repellent and reducing mosquito habitat around our homes.”
Last year, 13 human cases of West Nile infection were reported, with West Nile virus detected in 15 counties. No deaths were reported, however, it is difficult to predict the impact WNV will have from year to year. In 2006, Idaho led the nation for WNV illnesses with almost 1,000 infections that contributed to 23 deaths.
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, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. In some cases the virus can cause severe illness, especially in people older than 50.
To reduce the likelihood of WNV infection, people are advised to avoid mosquitoes, particularly between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes 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, static decorative ponds, and animal water tanks weekly as they may provide a suitable mosquito habitat.
West Nile virus does not usually affect domestic animals, 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 vaccinate their horses annually.
Central District Health Department
Tom Shanahan or Niki Forbing-Orr
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
Media line: 208-334-0668