Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services recently announced that the first case of West Nile Virus has been confirmed in Blaine County in the northern part of the state bordering Canada.

KGVO News spoke with Devon Cozart, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist with DPHHS in Helena about the first confirmed case of West Nile Virus in the state.

West Nile Virus has been Confirmed in Northern Montana

“Every year we do collect mosquito pools, and what that means is we go out to a certain region of the state and we collect a bunch of mosquitoes in that location and then we test them for West Nile Virus,” began Cozart. “We typically have mosquitoes test positive every year. We had this detection in Blaine County, however that doesn’t mean the threat ends in Blaine County.”

No matter where the first West Nile mosquitoes are found, Cozart said the disease poses a risk to the entire state.

DPHHS says all Montanans Should be on the Lookout for West Nile Virus

“Our mosquitoes with West Nile Virus don’t typically travel more than a mile or so from their breeding site, however, we can’t test every single mosquito in the state,” she said. “So, once is here and it's in the surrounding states as well then we consider most of the state to be at risk, and we encourage all Montanans to be ‘mosquito aware’.”

Cozart said West Nile Virus can have very serious medical consequences.

“Even if you develop some of the more minor symptoms, and I use that term very lightly,” she said. “A lot of people that I personally know that have had West Nile Virus have symptoms that go on for months, such as fatigue that can really affect your ability to work and function day to day. Unfortunately at that point, we have about one in 150 who develop very, very severe symptoms. This can actually develop into severe neurological effects that can include numbness, paralysis, vision loss, encephalitis, and meningitis. From there it can become deadly or result in permanent disability.”

West Nile Virus can have very Serious Medical Consequences

Cozart said a visit to the DPHHS website can provide more information as to where West Nile Virus has been found in Montana, and it is updated on a regular basis. The map indicates that Missoula County has a 'targeted species'.

“Even if you just Google ‘Montana DPHHS, West Nile Virus’, it has its own devoted page, and there's a map that I update that will show you where we've had positive detections and mosquito pools,” she said. “Those are going to be our most at-risk areas. But remember, we have mosquitoes throughout the state, but our areas that have had a positive pool are going to be our highest at the moment. So I update that map as we get new positives, and there's more information on that website as well.”

Anyone who suspects they might have contracted West Nile Virus is encouraged to contact their medical provider as soon as possible.

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