Havre Daily News
Hill County has its first confirmed case this year of West Nile, a virus which has infected more than 500 people in the United States this year, killing at least a dozen.
The Hill County Health Department said Wednesday that an 85-year-old Havre man was diagnosed with a lab test.
The man is hospitalized and is in fair condition, Health Department nurse Bridget Kallenberger said today.
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services health specialist Jim Murphy said an investigation confirmed the case, bringing the state's total to nine people infected this year.
"To the best of our knowledge, it appears that this was acquired locally," Murphy said.
A sample of the man's spinal fluid was taken locally and sent to the state Public Health Laboratory in Helena, where technicians diagnosed him with neuroinvasive West Nile virus, Kallenberger said. He was suffering from fever and disorientation, she said.
It was unclear when the man contracted the illness, which can - in less than 1 percent of people sickened with the virus - result in symptoms as severe as convulsions, coma, paralysis and death. Some patients may experience no symptoms or develop a mild illness and need no treatment. Other symptoms include headache, rash, high fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, muscle weakness and tremors.
The disease can be carried by horses and birds, which cannot transmit it to humans. The main risk of transmission lies with mosquitoes, Kallenberger said.
Murphy encouraged residents to take precautions for the remainder of mosquito season.
The first sign of the virus in Montana this year was discovered in a Blaine County horse and in mosquitoes in Custer, Prairie, Sheridan and Valley counties in early August. A few weeks ago, a Yellowstone County man was the first confirmed human case in the state this year.
Nationwide, there were 2,539 cases of West Nile virus reported last year, 100 of which were fatal, according to Kallenberger.
The first frost of the year generally knocks the mosquito population down significantly, Murphy said. The species of mosquitoes health officials worry most about have already begun to decline, according the Montana State University entomologists, Murphy said.
That isn't reason enough for residents to let down their guards yet, he said.
"Take precautions for what is left of the season," Murphy said. "We've got mild weather back. We're keeping our fingers crossed that the season should be over in a few more weeks."
Health officials remind Montanans to take heed to the "4Ds," guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus to residents.
Dusk and dawn are the periods when mosquitoes are most active. Stay indoors when possible.
Dress in long-sleeved shirts and pants when going outdoors during high-risk hours.
DEET is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before going outdoors, adults should apply an insect repellent that is 25 percent to 35 percent DEET. Children ages 2 to 12 should use repellent containing 10 percent DEET or less. Products containing picaridin and permethrin also have been found to be effective, along with oil of lemon eucalyptus.
Drain standing water in old tires, barrels, buckets, cans, gutters and other containers to keep mosquito populations at bay. Change water in pet bowls, flowerpots and birdbaths at least twice a week.
For more information about West Nile virus protection and detection efforts, contact the Hill County Health Department at 265-5481, ext. 266.