West Nile Virus Concerns Health Officials


By Aimee Burnett

Twin Falls, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KSVT-TV ) Health officials are sending out a warning after West Nile Virus was detected in western Idaho.

In 2006, Idaho led the nation in West Nile illnesses with almost 1,000 people becoming infected, resulting in twenty–three deaths.

In 2013, forty human cases were reported in sixteen counties, two people died.

Every summer Kirk Tubbs of the Twin Falls Pest Abatement District spends his days on the banks of the snake river and other places where water pools.

"Every week the Twin Falls Pest Abatement District sets mosquito traps to catch adult mosquitoes so we can test them for West Nile Virus," said Tubbs.

"Traps like this are set in various sites around the county and collected weekly. They're then taken back to the lab for analysis."

"Only certain species of mosquitoes can carry WNV and so we'll sort those out and test them. "The ones we worry about are the ones that bite, lay eggs, bite again, lay eggs, and so as they repeatedly feed that's when they have the opportunity to transmit West Nile Virus," Tubbs explained.

WNV is a potentially deadly virus that's transmitted to people, birds and animals via mosquito bites.

"The ones that we worry about are the elderly and the young children who may not have the immune systems to fight it well," said Logan Hudson, South Central Public Health Dist.

70 to 80 percent of people who get the virus don't show any symptoms according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but in some cases the results are devastating.

"The virus does get into the person's CNS and can cause permanent brain damage and other disabilities," Hudson explained.

Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis, inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues.

The symptoms of West Nile Fever resemble that of the flu, fever, fatigue, and generalized pain.

"Prevention is the only tool that we have against West Nile," Hudson emphasized.

The best ways to protect yourself are, use Deet or other EPA approved repellents, wear protective clothing from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active, and, remove standing water in your yard to eliminate breeding grounds.

If you believe you may have a mosquito problem you can contact the pest abatement district at (208) 733-2338.