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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Idaho death prompts regional calls for West Nile caution

Regional health officials are reminding people to take precautions against mosquitoes and ticks following the death of a 12-year-old boy who attended a youth camp in southern Idaho.

Rocco Magliozzi of Norwood, Mass., died in a Boise hospital July 28 after being exposed to West Nile virus and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Idaho Health and Welfare officials confirmed. The boy had attended a camp in Gooding, Idaho.

Although West Nile has not been detected north of Gem County in Idaho and not at all in Washington state this year, health officials here say it’s only a matter of time.

“It isn’t very far away, given the epidemiology,” said Dr. Kim Thorburn, health officer for the Spokane Regional Health District. “We are on higher alert in Washington.”

Idaho has reported 25 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in humans this year and dozens more cases in animals. So far this year, a dozen of Idaho’s 44 counties have detected mosquitoes that tested positive for West Nile.

There have been no positive cases in people, birds, animals or mosquitoes in Washington in 2006, according to state health statistics.

The West Nile virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and produces a usually mild, flu-like reaction, although it can develop into a serious, even fatal, illness. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is transmitted through the bites of ticks.

To avoid the illness, people should take precautions outdoors. That includes wearing mosquito repellant, long-sleeved shirts and long pants, when possible, and staying away from mosquito- or tick-infested areas.

People also are urged to repair faulty household screens to keep insects out and to remove standing water from bird baths, toys and other household areas to limit mosquito breeding sites.

Analyze your home for environmental hazards

Is your home a healthy place? Find out courtesy of the American Lung Association of Washington. The agency provides trained volunteers who will visit private homes and identify potential environmental health hazards– and solutions.

To find out more, call (509) 325-6516 or e-mail lodell@alaw.org. Or visit the Web site www.alaw.org

Gates Foundation expands scholarships for health study

An additional $58 million will be added to the Gates Millennium Scholars program to provide access to education for minority students hoping to pursue careers in public health.

The expansion, announced Monday, boosts the $1 billion initiative that already has helped more than 10,000 students from across the country and in three U.S. territories.

By adding public health to the program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation officials hope to increase the number of academically talented, low-income minority students who succeed in the field. Foundation officials hope to increase minority talent in fields including epidemiology, biomedical science, tropical disease, public health practice and nutritional science.

The deadline for application is Jan. 12, 2007. For more information, visit www.gmsp.org

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