A Kootenai County resident has contracted West Nile virus from a bite from a local mosquito – the first such case ever reported in North Idaho.
Panhandle Health District reports that the resident tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized, but is now recovering; the patient wasn’t identified, other than that it is an individual over the age of 50.
“While several cases of West Nile virus are reported each summer, all previously reported human cases have been directly related to travel outside the region,” said Dave Hylsky, staff epidemiologist for the district. “It’s imperative that people take extra precautions to protect themselves.” Eleven Idaho counties had previously reported positive tests for West Nile this year among local mosquitoes; according to the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, this is the first human case reported this year.
Precautions include using insect repellent; wearing light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors; avoiding being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active; ensuring window and door screens are in place and in good repair; and removing standing water that can provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
West Nile virus is spread by infected mosquitoes, and in most cases causes few or no symptoms, but severe cases can lead to meningitis, encephalitis or death. About one in five people who are infected experience symptoms, which develop three to 14 days after the mosquito bite, including fever, nausea, headaches, body aches, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.
The virus has no specific cure; those who are experiencing symptoms and have recent mosquito bites are advised to visit their doctor for testing. Severe cases are treated with intravenous fluids, help with breathing and nursing care. People over age 50 or those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.
According to Panhandle Health, mosquitoes and horses in North Idaho have tested positive for the virus in the past, but this is the first locally acquired human case. The district says the virus “now appears to be present throughout North Idaho.”
Panhandle Health is posting updates on its website, www.panhandlehealthdistrict.org.
Last year, nine human cases of West Nile infection were reported in Idaho, with no deaths, but the prevalence varies from year to year. In 2006, Idaho led the nation for West Nile illnesses with almost 1,000 infections that contributed to 23 deaths.