While mosquitoes and horses in North Idaho have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV) in the past, health officials have never reported a local transmission case in a human–until now.

 Kootenai County, Idaho Image/David Benbennick
Kootenai County, Idaho
Image/David Benbennick

The Panhandle Health District has confirmed a human case of West Nile virus in North Idaho. A Kootenai County resident over the age of 50 tested positive for the virus. This is the first locally-acquired human case ever reported in North Idaho.

“While several cases of West Nile virus are reported each summer, all previously reported human cases have been directly related to travel outside the region. In this case, the virus was likely acquired through local mosquitoes,” Dave Hylsky, PHD Staff Epidemiologist explained. “It’s imperative that people take extra precautions to protect themselves.”

West Nile virus can be transmitted to humans, horses and other animals by infected mosquitoes after the mosquitoes have bitten infected birds, which are the primary hosts of the virus.

Most people bitten by infected mosquitoes may experience mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. Those whom develop symptoms may experience fever, nausea, headaches and muscle aches approximately 3 to 14 days after the insect bite. In rare cases, severe illness including meningitis, encephalitis, or even death can occur. People older than 50 and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.

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There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. People with symptoms and recent mosquito bites are encouraged to visit their physician to discuss the necessity of testing.