BANNOCK COUNTY -- Mosquitoes infected with the West Nile Virus have been discovered in eastern Idaho, health officials warned Friday.
The insects, which were collected in Bannock County, are the first this year to test positive for the disease.
The discovery prompted the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to reiterate warnings for Idahoans to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Already, officials in the Treasure Valley area are predicting an unusually bad summer for mosquitoes, due in large part to continued flooding that has created miles of new habitat in which the bloodsucking insects can breed.
Mosquito pools infected with West Nile were found in ten counties across the state - including Ada and Canyon - last year. A total of nine people and ten horses contracted the disease statewide, according to health officials.
Detection is most common during the summer in the central and southwest parts of Idaho. With temperatures rising, the insects aren't going anywhere anytime soon, warned Dr. Leslie Tengelsen of the Idaho Division of Public Health.
“Disease-carrying mosquitoes will be around now until a killing frost so it is critical that you protect yourselves and your family members from their bite,” Tengelsen said. “Finding positive mosquitoes in one part of the state is an indication that conditions are right for virus transmission; you should avoid mosquito bites even if tests have not yet confirmed the virus in your local mosquitoes.”
People can contract West Nile through the bite of an infected insect, but the disease does not spread from person-to-person through casual contact.
West Nile Virus is particularly dangerous to people over 50. Symptoms often fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a rash.
The public is advised to take steps to ward off mosquito bites, especially around dawn and dusk when the insects are most active. Covering exposed skin, applying insect repellent, making sure window screens are intact and reducing standing water on your property can all help protect against the disease.