Idaho mosquito abatement districts are reporting increased mosquito populations throughout the state, prompting public health officials to remind people to take precautions and ‘fight the bite’ against West Nile virus.
“We are hearing of a lot of mosquito activity throughout the state and this is a timely warning for people to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Deputy State Epidemiologist. “West Nile virus is part of our ecosystem and can cause serious illness. Infections occur when mosquitoes are active – and they are active now.”
West Nile virus 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. In 2006, Idaho led the nation in West Nile illnesses with almost 1,000 infections, which contributed to 23 deaths.
To reduce the likelihood of infection, people are advised to 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; and
Reduce standing water on your property. Check and drain toys, trays or pots outdoors which may hold water; and
Change bird baths and static decorative ponds weekly as they may provide a suitable mosquito breeding habitat.
West Nile virus does not usually affect domestic animals, including dogs and cats, but 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.