Mosquito feeding

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Two residents in Owyhee County have been infected locally with West Nile virus—the first cases in Idaho of 2020—according to the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare.

"The detection of West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes has increased significantly during the last few weeks and we strongly encourage Idahoans to fight the bite of mosquitoes to protect themselves and their families," wrote Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, a state public health veterinarian, in a press release. 

One of the cases was detected after the patient reported having a fever that was determined to be caused by the virus. The other was detected via blood donor screening. Both of the cases were found in Owyhee County residents over the age of 50.

Thirteen cases were reported statewide last year, and virus activity was detected in 12 counties. So far in 2020, virus activity has been found in six southwest Idaho counties. In addition to humans, the disease has been found in mosquitoes, which transmit the illness through bites, and horses. 

Symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, headache, nausea, body aches, occasionally swollen lymph glands and rash. Symptoms may be more severe in people over 50 years old. In 2006, Idaho topped the nation with West Nile infections, with nearly 1,000 reported cases and 23 deaths. 

The Department of Health & Welfare says there are several ways to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Wear long-sleeved clothing while outdoors, and use insect repellant
  • Replace or repair door and window screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering the home
  • Reduce mosquito habitat by draining standing water, toys, trays and pots that may contain water where mosquitoes breed
  • Regularly change the water in bird baths, decorative ponds and other water features to reduce mosquito habitat
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