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Health officials say more West Nile virus detected, rabid bat found in swimsuit

Central District Health officials say that West Nile virus has now been detected in mosquito pools in Ada and Elmore counties.
Credit: KTVB
Mosquitoes can spread the West Nile virus to humans and livestock.

BOISE, Idaho — Summer activities are in full swing and health officials are urging people to take extra precautions because of some common threats.

First, Central District Health officials say that West Nile virus has now been detected in mosquito pools in Ada and Elmore counties.

On Wednesday, the Ada County Mosquito Abatement District confirmed the presence of the virus in three separate mosquito traps in Kuna. In each case, these are the first reported incidences of the virus in the two counties.

Secondly, CDH says a bat found recently in Boise County has tested positive for rabies. The bat was found in a swimsuit that was stored outside overnight. This is the first rabid bat reported in CHD's jurisdiction this year and bring the statewide total to five. Those who came in contact with the bat are getting preventive treated for rabies.

Health officials want to remind the public to stay safe this summer by protecting themselves from such threats and possible related illnesses.

"These are common threats that we see each summer, but we want to remind people they need to remain diligent in protecting themselves from mosquito bites, and that wildlife, like bats, can be a source of rabies – it's a good opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about ways to stay safe, too," said Lindsay Haskell, Communicable Disease Control Manager at Central District Health.

Without treatment, rabies is virtually 100 percent fatal in people and animals. CDH reminds people to avoid contact with bats. In Idaho, bats with rabies are typically reported between March and November. Last year, 17 bats tested positive for rabies statewide; no area in Idaho is considered rabies-free. 

While bats are an important part of our ecosystem and most do not carry rabies, CDH offers the following tips to protect yourself and pets: 

• Never touch a bat with your bare hands.

• If you have had an encounter with a bat, seek medical attention. 

• If you come in contact with a bat, save the bat in a container without touching it and contact your health department to arrange testing for rabies. Whenever possible, the bat should be tested to rule out an exposure to rabies. During regular business hours in Ada, Boise and Elmore Counties, call 208-327-7499 and in Valley County, call 208-634-7194. After business hours in all counties, call 1-800-632-8000. 

• Always vaccinate your pets for rabies, including horses. Pets may encounter bats outdoors or in the home.

• Bat-proof your home or cabin by plugging all holes in the siding and maintaining tight-fitting screens on windows. Bats can enter through holes the size of a quarter.

As for West Nile virus, both Ada and Elmore counties have treated the areas where the positive mosquito pools were detected to reduce the risk infection. In Ada County, three trap locations in Kuna tested positive for the virus; in Elmore County, just one location tested positive along Canyon Creek Road, north of Mountain Home.

The virus is usually contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms of infection can include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. Most people infected with the virus do not develop any symptoms. 

To reduce the likelihood of West Nile virus infection, avoid mosquitoes, particularly between dusk and dawn when they are most active. In addition, you should:

• Cover up exposed skin when outdoors and apply DEET or other EPA-approved insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing. Carefully follow instructions on the product label, especially for children.

• Insect-proof your home by repairing or replacing screens. 

• Reduce standing water on your property; check and drain toys, trays, or pots outdoors that may hold water and harbor mosquito eggs.

•  Change birdbaths, static decorative ponds, and animal water tanks weekly because they may provide a suitable mosquito habitat.

The virus does not usually affect domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, but it can cause severe illness in horses and certain species of birds. People are advised to vaccinate their horses.  

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