Montana has seen the season’s first human West Nile Virus cases in the state in Custer and Lewis and Clark counties, public health officials reported.
Two people older than 60 have been hospitalized, according to a press release by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services sent Thursday.
The release states that no other information on their conditions is available at this time but notes that individuals in this age range are at greater risk for severe disease.
According to the map on the DPHHS website, Yellowstone, Cascade, Blaine, Valley, and Sheridan counties have all been identified as having positive mosquito pools tested for West Nile Virus. One case involving a horse infected with West Nile Virus was reported in Lake County.
“This is typically when we see our first human cases in Montana following the hot drier weather of late July and early August,” said DPHHS communicable disease epidemiologist Erika Baldry. “Our season can begin as early as July and because it can take some time to become ill, we can receive reports of ill individuals as late as October.”
According to Stacey Anderson, another epidemiologist for DPHHS, Lewis and Clark and Custer counties are undergoing mosquito pool testing. However, the results are reported every week, and no confirmed pools have been found in these counties yet.
“We wanted to make sure we had these results out for everyone before the holiday weekend,” Anderson said.
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In 2018, 51 human West Nile virus cases and one related death were reported, along with 50 horse cases. Seven counties had positive mosquito pools.
Most people who become infected with West Nile experience no symptoms, but one in five will develop mild symptoms like headaches and rashes. Fewer than one out of 150 may become severely ill with encephalitis, meningitis, or inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues.
People who develop these symptoms should see their health care provider, the release said.
In Montana, the mosquito species Culex tarsalis is effective in transmitting the virus to people and horses.
DPHHS recommends using insect repellent with DEET or picaridin, draining standing water around a home to prevent mosquito breeding, staying inside during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are active, and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect from bites.