DHW receives reports of first two human cases of West Nile virus infection this year

Idaho’s first two human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) infection for 2019 have been confirmed in residents of Washington County. A resident over the age of 30 was diagnosed with West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease. Another resident over the age of 60 was diagnosed with West Nile virus fever.

So far this year, WNV activity has been detected in 10 counties.

“The detection of West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes has increased significantly during the last few weeks and we strongly encourage Idahoans to fight the bite of mosquitoes to protect themselves and their families,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian. “Confirmation of human infection makes it increasingly important for all of us to take protective measures. 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.” Continue reading

Wildfire season means it’s time to pay attention to air quality.

Air quality can be a big deal this time of year, and it changes depending on where the wildfires are and which way the wind is blowing. Wildfire smoke can cause irritating symptoms for healthy people and more serious health issues for people with heart and lung disease. It’s important to know how to protect yourself and your family from smoky air whenever possible.

Let’s start with precautions: How can we limit our exposure to smoke?

Mostly, you should reduce your time and activities outside as much as possible. Stay indoors in air-conditioning, if you can. If you don’t have air conditioning, go someplace that does, like the mall or library. Otherwise, there are several things you can do to limit the smoky air you breathe:

  • Keep your windows and doors closed.
  • If you have central air conditioning, use an air filter rated MERV 8 or higher and turn your system fan setting to on.
  • If you have to drive in smoky areas, turn the vehicle air flow to recirculate to reduce the amount of smoke in the vehicle.

Continue reading

How to keep your cool in extreme heat


We’ve had a really pleasant string of cool summer days early this summer, but the temperatures are starting to tick up into the triple digits. So it’s a good time to take note of how to avoid heat-related illness in the hottest summer months.

What are some signs of heat-related illnesses?

Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, heavy sweating, a pale appearance to the skin, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, and headaches. If you get to the point where you have a very high body temperature, are not sweating, and are experiencing hallucinations or disorientation, or you pass out, you may have heat stroke. Call 9-1-1 right away and take immediate steps to cool down.

Who is most at risk for heat-related illness?

People at the highest risk are babies and children up to age 4, people 65 and older, as well as anyone who is overweight, sick, or on certain medications. People without air conditioning, athletes, and outdoor workers are also at high risk of heat-related illness. Children are particularly at risk in the heat – their bodies heat up three-to-five times faster than adults. But everyone can get sick in the heat if they’re not careful, especially if they’re doing strenuous physical activities in high temperatures. When it’s hot out, you might consider checking on family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they are staying cool. Continue reading

Harmful algal blooms in recreational water: When in doubt, stay out!

Most of the year, Idaho’s lakes and reservoirs are safe to enjoy. But when water temperatures increase, as they typically do in July and August, and the right type of nutrients are available, some bodies of water can produce blooms of harmful bacteria that can be dangerous for humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife. We call those blooms harmful algal blooms.

What causes harmful algal blooms?

The blooms are caused by bacteria that can produce toxins. The blooms are also referred to as cyanobacterial blooms. When weather conditions are calm and there is an increase in water temperature and nutrients, bacteria can rapidly increase and produce a bloom. Blooms can occur at any time, but they most often occur in late summer or early fall.


What do these blooms look like?

They can be blue, bright green, brown, or red and may look like paint or anti-freeze floating on the water. As the bloom develops, it may look like foam, scum, or mats on the surface of lakes and ponds. Continue reading

The Poison Center is available to answer your questions 24/7

anton-darius-sollers-301423 (1)Thanks to all the summertime picnics, swimming, and cookouts, summer is also a time for more poisonings. As the seasons and weather change, so do the types of calls to the Nebraska Regional Poison Center, which handles calls from Idaho.

The Poison Center is a free community service . Call 1-800-222-1222 and talk immediately to a registered nurse or pharmacist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information for the poison center in your smart phone.

Here are a few things you may need to call the Poison Center for assistance with:

Glow Sticks:  The Poison Center receives many calls about glow sticks each year.  The liquid can be irritating when it comes into contact with your mouth, skin, and eyes. Continue reading

As summer heats up, stay healthy by keeping your food safe in the outdoors


Idaho summers are full of sunshine, warm temperatures, and long days. That means it is more likely you will be cooking and eating outdoors, whether you are backcountry camping, whitewater rafting or enjoying a family picnic in a local park. That presents some food safety challenges. As food heats up in the warm temperatures, bacteria multiply faster and could make you sick if your food isn’t handled properly.

What are the main culprits for foodborne illness when eating outdoors?

We’re talking about communicable diseases like salmonella, norovirus, E. coli and other gastrointestinal illnesses that can be caused by improperly storing, cooking or serving food, and then can spread rapidly in a group that is sharing close quarters or eating together and not practicing good hygiene and safe food handling.

What are some of the symptoms of those diseases?

For most people, symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea, but in some cases, life-threatening complications like organ failure can occur. Young children, pregnant women, adults over 65, and people with weak immune systems are more likely to get food poisoning, and if they do get sick they might have more severe symptoms. Continue reading

DHW is accepting public comment on Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant application through July 14

MCHBlockGrantApplicationThe Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Block Grant Program is one of the largest federal block grant programs and the longest standing public health legislation with the goal of improving the health and well-being of mothers, infants, and children, including children and youth with special health care needs, and their families. Title V supports a spectrum of services, including infrastructure-building services such as quality assurance and policy development, and filling in gaps in direct health care services for children and youth with special health care needs.

Whether you are a parent, government official, advocate, service provider, or member of the general public, the Idaho MCH Block Grant likely touches you or a family member’s life. Its success lies in the strength of partnerships, collaborations, and involvement of Idaho families. Continue reading