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First Case of West Nile Virus Confirmed in Montana, Hits Late in Season

Photo courtesy of aussiegall/Flickr

The Montana Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the first human case of West Nile Virus in Montana so far this year. The case occurred in Yellowstone County, which has occurrences of the virus nearly every year. Surveillance Epidemiologist with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services Joel Merriman said West Nile Virus outbreaks were delayed by weather.

“This year does look to be a little late for West Nile season, but that’s as expected because we had a very wet spring,” Merriman said. “It didn’t start getting warm until later than usual. The mosquitoes that transmit West Nile Virus were not out until later than expected.”

Merriman indicated that mosquito counts peaked weeks ago and that populations are on the decline. Though West Nile Virus is common in mosquitoes in eastern and northern Montana, the west rarely sees cases.

“As far as Western Montana, it’s pretty rare for the virus to cross the divide there,” Merriman said. “However, there are other arboviral diseases like Western Equine Encephalitis that have the potential to be in those areas.”

West Nile Virus season will likely be over by the middle of October. Montana has not seen a big outbreak of the disease in humans since 2007.

West Nile Virus can cause West Nile Encephalitis, a disease with symptoms such as high fever, tremors and paralysis. Nationwide, 286 people died from from the disease last year.

For prevention, Merriman recommends following the “five D’s.“ Avoid being outside during Dusk and Dawn when mosquitoes with the virus are more apt to strike. Dress appropriately with long pants and sleeves if you will be outside for extended periods of time. Use Deet. Finally, Drain areas of stagnant water, which can harbor mosquitoes.

Joel Merriman:

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