BOISE -- The fight against West Nile is ramping up in Idaho and across the nation. Experts believe 2012 will be the worst year the country has seen since the disease first broke-out in 1999.

Currently there are more than 1,100 human cases nationwide. Idaho currently has four confirmed cases, but health officials expect that number to go up.

'Cover-up, or risk getting bit,' that's the message of the campaign against the West Nile Virus.

In Idaho, people do need to take precautions to protect themselves from the bite of a mosquito, said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Idaho's Deputy State Epidemiologist.

West Nile in Idaho

Idaho's four confirmed human cases have the attention of health officials, but not on the same scale as other states.More than 1,100 people in 38 states have been infected by the West Nile virus and 43 have died in 2012. More than half are in Texas where the death toll has risen to 28.

What's more, the number of cases nationwide have nearly doubled within the last week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they're stating there are more human cases this time this year than there have been in any prior year, said Tengelsen.

And that's saying something. In 2006, Idaho had over 1,000 confirmed human cases.

We certainly have the potential here in Idaho to see large numbers again this year, said Tengelsen.

In the past two years, Idaho has only had three confirmed cases of West Nile Virus. To date, eight Idaho counties have mosquitoes that have tested positive for the virus. All but one is in southwestern Idaho.

Fighting the disease

The abatement districts are aggressively looking for West Nile virus in their trapped mosquitoes, Tengelsen said. If they find positive mosquitoes they're aggressively going out and trying to remove those sources of mosquitoes.

Tengelsen says that means technicians will have to spray more insecticide to reduce the mosquito population. However, eliminating the disease won't be easy.

Until we have good killing frosts that take out the mosquitoes, we certainly have the possibility to see additional human cases, said Tengelsen.

Most of the people who get the disease will never show symptoms, but for those who do, it can be anything from a fever to neurological problems, and in some cases, death. If you believe you have symptoms, health officials urge you to seek medical treatment immediately.

The best way to avoid West Nile is to practice the 4 D's:

  • Use insect repellent with Deet.
  • Dress in long sleeves and pants when outside.
  • Drain standing water.
  • And stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are the most active.
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