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While there have been no confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in East Idaho so far this summer, residents are urged to take precautions after mosquitoes collected in a trap during a routine test by the Fort Hall Reservation's Mosquito Abatement Program tested positive for the virus recently. Randy'L Teton, public affairs manager for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes reported that information on Tuesday.
The virus, which is spread through a mosquito bite, impacted three Idahoans last year, and one woman in Twin Falls County has contacted it so far this year, according to a press release.
In 2006, Bingham County had 62 confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in humans, the highest number in the nation, and causing the death of least one person. Craig Rowland, Bingham County's mosquito abatement director, said he feels confident that the Blackfoot area is free of the West Nile Virus.
"Since 2006, we have sprayed, trapped and tested mosquitos religiously and have seen no signs of West Nile," he said.
Tim Bennett, Fort Hall's mosquito abatement director, said for the Fort Hall test, the mosquitoes were split into two test pools, each containing 33 Culex mosquitoes, with one pool testing negative and the other testing positive for the virus.
"This indicates that although the virus is now in the mosquito population in this area, less than half of the mosquitoes in the area are currently carrying the virus, which reduces the likelihood of infection in people," Bennett said. "With the hot weather and high population of mosquitoes, the detection of West Nile virus in Fort Hall and surrounding counties has been expected and we are prepared to deal with the situation accordingly."
West Nile virus can be transmitted to humans, horses and other animals. Symptoms of human West Nile infections usually begin about 14 days after being bitten by a mosquito and consist of low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, fatigue and headaches. In severe cases, symptoms can include high fever, neck pain, horrible headache, a rash on the torso area, and disorientation, which may be signs of inflammation of the brain. Anyone experiencing such symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
Judy Kunz, director of nurses at Blackfoot Medical Center, said she remembers well the summer of 2006 when West Nile was rampant in Bingham County.
"That summer was the busiest we have ever been; we had to send patients to Idaho Falls to get help," she said. "People were lined up to get tested and those who had been diagnosed need IV treatments; it was a horrible year."
The main prevention of West Nile virus is simply "avoiding mosquito bites" and since the recent findings in Fort Hall, residents are urged to take the following precautions to prevent being bitten:
-Defend yourself against mosquitoes by using a repellent with an effective ingredient. Make sure to follow label directions.
-Drain all sources of standing water that may support mosquito breeding habits.
-Door and window screens should fit tight and be in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.
-Avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk as this is when mosquitoes are most active.
-Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors when mosquitoes are present.
Fort Hall officials have increased larval control activity and spraying for adult mosquitoes in the area in an effort to interrupt the infection cycle in the mosquito population and they will continue surveillance and treatment in the area to keep the virus at bay.
For more information about West Nile, go to http://westnile.idaho.gov.