Friday, August 2, 2013

West Nile virus crossing the state

Health officials advise mosquito protection

Express Staff Writer

Express Staff Writer
    The potentially fatal West Nile virus is making its way eastward across southern Idaho toward Blaine County, carried by mosquitoes.
    A Payette County man in his 40s is the first human case of West Nile virus reported in Idaho for 2013.
    According to a news release issued this week by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the man was diagnosed with a severe form of the infection and is hospitalized.
    Two unvaccinated horses have also been diagnosed with the virus in western Idaho. Though there is no vaccine available for people, there are several vaccines available for horses.
    The first case of West Nile in North America was reported in New York City in 1999. Since then, it has spread west with migrating birds. Mosquitoes contract the disease after feeding on infected birds.
    Last year, 17 people in Idaho reported West Nile virus infections, with West Nile activity reported in 11 counties. In 2006, Idaho led the nation in West Nile illnesses with almost 1,000 infections, which contributed to 23 deaths.
    “Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus are out, and they’re hungry,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “This first human case serves as a reminder to ‘fight the bite’ of mosquitoes, even if you live in an active mosquito abatement district.
    “It is very important that we all prevent mosquito bites and take protective measures, such as wearing repellent and reducing mosquito-breeding habitat around our homes.”
Blaine County does not have a mosquito abatement program, but individual precautions can help. Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors, repair screens in homes and apply DEET or other EPA-approved insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing.
    People are also advised to remove pools of standing water, which are mosquito breeding grounds, and report dead birds to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
    Erin Crawford, an equine veterinarian at Sawtooth Equine Service, said a $28 vaccine for horses and mules has kept the virus from spreading in livestock.
    “All of the cases in horses that have been reported in recent years have been with unvaccinated horses,” Crawford said.
    Symptoms of the infection in horses include an inability to stand. In humans the infection often includes 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.

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