(KLIX) – Public health officials say West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Canyon County.

The mosquitoes are the first detected with the virus this year in the Gem State, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The department said one death was reported last year due to West Nile complications, and 11 Idaho counties reported finding mosquito pools that tested positive for the virus. In all, 16 people and five horses were infected.

“This is the time of year we expect West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes to be found in Idaho,” Division of Public Health Medical Director Dr. Christine Hahn said in a news release. “Avoiding mosquito bites is the best protection against infection with the virus.”

West Nile virus is contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito; it is not spread from person-to-person through casual contact. Symptoms often include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. In some cases, the virus can cause severe illness, especially in people over the age of 50, and may require hospitalization. On rare occasion, it can lead to death.

The department said there several steps people can take, especially between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, to reduce the likelihood of infection:

  • Cover up exposed skin when outdoors and apply DEET or other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing. DEET may be used on adults, children, and infants older than 2 months of age. Carefully follow instructions on the product label, especially for children.
  • Insect-proof your home by repairing or replacing screens.
  • Reduce standing water on your property; check and drain toys, trays, or pots outdoors that may hold water and harbor mosquito eggs.
  • Change bird baths and static decorative ponds weekly as they may also provide a suitable mosquito habitat.

The virus does not usually affect domestic animals such as dogs and cats, the department said, but it can cause severe illness in horses and certain species of birds. Although there is no vaccine available for people, there are several vaccines available for horses. People are advised to have their horses vaccinated annually.

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