Several West Nile Virus cases reported in Montana - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Several West Nile Virus cases reported in Montana

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Public health officials are reminding Montanans to avoid mosquito bites as the state’s first cases of West Nile Virus of 2016 were recently reported.

Four cases of West Nile Virus have been reported: three in Dawson County and one in Garfield County.  

In addition to the human cases, one equine in Petroleum County has tested positive for WNV, and mosquitos in Lake, Prairie, Phillips and Valley counties have tested positive for the virus. 

WNV is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitos through bites. 

About 4 out of 5 people infected will experience no symptoms and develop immunity. 

About 1 in 5 infected people develop a low-grade fever, headache, and muscle aches that begin a week or two after becoming infected.  Generally, no treatment is needed.

However, in less than 1 percent of infected people, it's possible for serious, life-threatening symptoms to develop, including headache, rash, high fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, and other symptoms. Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms should see their healthcare provider immediately. 

RELATED: West Nile Virus-positive mosquito pool detected in Cascade County; no reports of infections

Mid to late-summer is prime time for transmission of WNV, and public health officials encourage everyone to take steps to avoid mosquito bites and prevent infection.

To minimize risk of WNV, experts recommend reducing mosquito populations by removing mosquito breeding areas in and around the home. Simple steps such as draining bird-baths, wading pools, or any container with still water every few days will minimize breeding sites.

Because it is not possible to eliminate all breeding sites, people should follow specific recommendations to avoid being bitten. This includes wearing and safely using insect repellent when outdoors and wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts when possible. 

The number of WNV human cases in Montana varies from year to year. More than 200 cases were reported in 2003 and 2007, but generally the average is about 10 reported human infections each year. 

Cases reported are more likely to be those that are severe, and about one-third of Montana cases required hospitalization. 

“No one can predict the severity of WNV season,” said Christine Mulgrew, DPHHS WNV Program Manager. “But we can protect ourselves from mosquito bites and eliminate breeding sites around your home.”

The best defense against WNV is bite prevention.

To protect yourself, the CCHD stresses the "4 Ds" seen below:

  • DEET-Apply repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient, such as DEET, and follow the directions on the package.
  • DUSK and DAWN-This is when mosquitoes are most active. Try to avoid outdoor activities during these times.
  • DRAIN STANDING WATER-Standing water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Drain such areas around your home (gutters, pools, tires, buckets, water bowls, etc.).
  • DRESS APPROPRIATELY-Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks.

For more information about West Nile Virus, visit the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention website.

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