As more mosquitoes throughout Idaho test positive for the virus, it's important to be prepared.
"You always need to assume that if there's mosquitoes out there, they may have West Nile Virus," said Idaho North Central District Environmental Health Director Ed Marugg.
According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, pools of mosquitoes have been tested positive for the virus in Ada, Canyon and Payette counties. Although there have been no confirmed cases in the state, infected mosquitoes can carry the virus and spread it to people and animals.
"The life-cycle of the disease is such that mosquitoes will feed on birds and then they'll transmit it to the birds and then the birds will become infected and fly around," said Marugg. "You can have the mosquito populations in that area, where the bird flies to, feed on that infected bird, and then in turn become infected themselves and spread it to horse and to people."
The West Nile Virus is usually contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito and is not spread from person to person through casual contact. Although no mosquitoes have tested positive with the virus in the region, it is still important to take preventative steps in case an outbreak does occur.
"Wear bug spray, ideally containing deet," said said Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Deputy State Epidemiologist Doctor Leslie Tengelsen. "Make sure the screens in your homes are repaired. Avoid activities at dusk and dawn at all possible when mosquitoes are most active."
"If people have water sources on their pasture or on their lawns where stagnant water is, that's where mosquitoes will breed," said Marugg. "You need to take care of those areas, drain that water off, and that will lesson the chances of mosquitoes breeding around your home."
Horses can become very sick from the virus and in some cases, die. However, there are vaccinations available.
"The most important thing about vaccinations is to just be prepared and get it done ahead of any kind of outbreak," said Lewiston Veterinarian Clinic Vet John Hoch. "That way your horse is best protected and best able to weather the problem if we do see some in the area."
"People ought to be aware of what West Nile Virus is, that it may be here, even though we're not aware of any positive mosquitoes here," said Marugg.
West Nile Virus symptoms show up around three to 14 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Symptoms may include fever, tiredness, headaches, a rash and sore muscles.
"An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure," said Hoch.
West Nile Virus does not usually affect domestic animals, including dogs and cats.
For more information on the West Nile Virus visit www.westnile.idaho.gov.