Yes, it is that time of the year again. With the warmer weather, mosquitoes have arrived, and more are on their way. In addition having a stinging bite, they have been known to carry a variety of viruses and diseases. West Nile virus (WNV) is one that can cause serious illness, paralysis, and in some cases death. Some species of migratory birds carry the virus, becoming hosts, and transmit it to the mosquitoes when bitten. It is important to note that there have not been any reported human cases in Bear Lake County, but the disease is becoming endemic in more areas and counties each year.
Rich Kearl, of Bear Lake Mosquito Control, has been contracted by the Fish Haven Mosquito District to spray, test, and monitor mosquito populations and disease. He sets out six traps in the area and catches thousands of mosquitos per night. These insects are then sent to Boise for testing. Kearl currently performs mosquito spraying from his truck in the evenings and treats in wetland areas to kill larva. If West Nile is ever detected, mosquito control efforts will double-down adding aerial spraying and other delivery methods.
West Nile virus can be transmitted to people, dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, and other animals from the bite of an infected mosquito. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has found the first case of Idaho mosquitoes infected with West Nile Virus (WNV) this year in Canyon County, west of Boise, on June 12, 2018. These mosquitoes are in the same area where the virus has been found almost every year since WNV was first introduced in 2004. In 2006, Idaho led the nation in reports of human illness associated with WNV. Thirteen counties across the state have reported finding WNV positive mosquitoes collected from test ponds. The infection was found in 25 people, seven horses, three birds one llama, and other cases may go unreported.
The virus can cause serious illness in people at any age, but people over the age of 50 or others with existing medical conditions can be the most at risk. Symptoms to watch out for include fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, headache, skin irritation or rash, and in some cases swollen lymph nodes. If you experience any or a combination of these symptoms and have been exposed to biting mosquitoes, it is recommended to seek medical attention or see your family doctor as soon as possible.
The best strategy is to avoid being bitten in the first place. During the day, mosquitoes are most active at sunrise and sunset when they swarm. If you are fishing on the lake or near the water during these time periods, you may be at a even greater risk. Proactive measures such as wearing long-sleeve shirts, hats, mosquito nets, and other protective clothing to cover up your skin will reduce your risk. It is also recommended to always wear moderate amounts insect repellent containing DEET or any other EPA-approved ingredient. Another preventative measure is to eliminate all standing water including water in buckets, puddles, tires and watering troughs around your house; this is where the mosquitoes breed.