Public Health
2:00 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

MT mosquitos test positive for West Nile with a lot of hot weather still to come

Credit dr_relling/flickr

Officials with the Lewis & Clark City-County Health Department report West Nile Virus has been detected in eight Montana counties so far this Summer:

·        Blaine

·        Cascade

·        Hill

·        Lewis & Clark

·        Phillips

·        Prairie

·        Sheridan

·        Teton

"At the state level, there are actually people that go out and set traps for mosquitos," said Environmental Health Specialist Laurel Riek. The traps are taken back to state labs periodically to check for the virus until it is discovered in a county.

Riek said last year West Nile was not discovered into September. She said finding it this early means there is more possibility for exposure. In a press release, the Health Department put out these recommendations:

  • Check your window and door screens and repair as needed to make sure they keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Use insect repellent.
  • Wear long, loose, light-colored clothing or stay in a mosquito-protected area at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. 

"When it's the most pleasant outside, mosquitos are out there too," Riek said, adding mosquito populations usually remain high until the first frost of the year.

80 percent of people who contract West Nile experience no symptoms, she said, but those remaining—especially those over 50—can experience a mild illness called West Nile Fever. That can include symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, and a low-grade fever; these symptoms can last for several weeks in some cases.

However, about one in 150 people with West Nile develop dangerous brain infections like encephalitis or meningitis; these have symptoms that include headache, rash, high fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, muscle weakness, tremors, convulsions, coma and paralysis. The city-county health department advises anyone with these symptoms to see a health-care provider immediately.

The health department also recommends the following actions to remove mosquito breeding areas:

  • Empty standing water from flower pots, buckets, and barrels regularly.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and clean them with a garden hose weekly.
  • Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out.
  • Store tarps and children’s wading pools so that water can’t accumulate in them when they’re not being used.

Riek said even with 8 counties having West Nile Virus positive mosquitos, there have been no confirmed human cases this year.