Big Sky Roundup

West Nile virus spreads in Montana; 2 hospitalized in Billings

By: - August 29, 2023 6:20 pm

A transmission electron micrograph of West Nile virus particles (orange/gold) replicating within the cytoplasm of an infected cell (blue). Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Photo by NIAID, National Institute of Health via Flickr | CC-BY-SA 2.0)

At least eight people in Montana have been infected with West Nile Virus in recent weeks, including three Yellowstone County residents, according to RiverStone Health. Two of the Yellowstone County West Nile Virus patients were hospitalized with severe symptoms of the disease that affected the brain or other parts of the neurological system.

As of Aug. 25, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported cases of West Nile Virus in humans in Carbon, Yellowstone, Rosebud, Richland, Dawson and McCone counties. Six cases involved disease affecting the patient’s neurological system. Nationwide, 247 human cases and 13 deaths due to West Nile Virus have been confirmed this summer.

West Nile Virus is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. The most effective prevention is to avoid mosquito bites. Prevention measures to avoid mosquito bites include:

  • Avoid spending time outside at dawn and dusk.
  • Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors. Clothing should be light colored and made of tightly woven materials.
  • Drain standing water in or near your property. Mosquitoes may lay eggs in standing water.
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin. Follow the product guidelines.

Most people who become infected with West Nile Virus experience no symptoms. Some develop a mild illness, called West Nile fever, which may last for three to six days. Generally, no treatment is needed. Other individuals, fewer than one out of 150, may develop symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis.

While uncommon, symptoms of severe West Nile Virus infection can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Immediately seek medical attention if you develop these symptoms.

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