HELENA — Lewis and Clark County Public Health reports mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus have been found in the county. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services identified the virus in samples collected, but notes that no human or equine cases of the disease have been reported in the state.
Most Montana cases of West Nile occur in late August and early September. According to the CDC, West Nile is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States.
“The most important thing you can do to prevent West Nile Virus is to avoid mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus are most active at dusk and dawn,” said Laurel Riek, disease control and prevention division administrator for LCPH. “As we head into the last few weeks of summer, remember to cover exposed skin when you can and use an insect repellent.”
West Nile is transmitted to humans through the bite of a mosquito. LCPH says most of those infected will not become ill. However, one in five individuals infected with WNV develops a fever and other symptoms such as headache, eye pain, muscle aches, joint pain, rash, or swollen lymph nodes. About one in 150 people develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system, such as encephalitis or meningitis.
There are no vaccines to prevent the disease or medications to treat West Nile, making prevention the only line of defense.
- Residents can reduce the risk of getting West Nile by taking these steps to prevent mosquito bites:
- Wear protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Use insect repellent registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, such as DEET and Picaridin.
- Control mosquito populations by removing standing water around homes, barns, and apartment buildings. This can include tires, buckets, planters, toy pools, and flowerpot saucers. In addition, residents who have bird baths and outdoor water bowls for pets should change the water frequently.
- Use screens in good repair on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home.