West Nile Virus Season Is Almost Here

Jul 11, 2014

State and local public health officials are warning Montanans to be aware of the increasing risk of infection with the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus.

Credit Tennessee Department of Health

Since the disease first made its appearance in Montana back in 2002, more than 90-percent of cases in humans were reported in August and September.

West Nile Virus infections develops in about 3 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Joel Merriman is an epidemiologist in the Communicable Disease section of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Merriman says 80-percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito, don't present symptoms of the disease:

"It's really only that 20-percent of people that either develop West Nile fever, which is a less severe form of the disease that typically shows with high fever, maybe some joint pain, sometimes even rash. And then it's less than 1 to 2-percent of other cases that will develop neuro-invasive  West Nile, which is a far more severe disease."

The elderly, infants and people with compromised immune symptoms are more likely to develop West Nile Virus. 38 cases were reported in Montana last year. There is currently no medication to treat the disease symptoms, or vaccines to prevent infection.

Health officials says wearing lightly colored clothes, avoiding dawn and dusk hours with exposed skin, eliminating areas of standing water and using repellents containing DEET or picaridin can help reduce risk of infection.