POCATELLO, Idaho - The West Nile Virus season is coming early this year, after Payette County officials discovered the virus Wednesday in some of the county's mosquitoes caught earlier this week.
But it hasn't quite popped-up in Bannock County quite yet, although the mosquito population has seen a spike this year.
Bannock County Mosquito Abatement District Supervisor David Herter said the county has seen between a 30 and 40 percent increase in mosquitoes, while that number is as high as 90 percent across the rest of the state.
"We have led the nation in the West Nile Virus, and we have caught it in our adult traps every year," Herter said. "Three or four weeks ago we were not catching anything in our traps. It was mild and we were not seeing as many mosquitoes. But then these past two weeks they have really been exploding on us."
Herter said the county has been flying over the southern part of the county, laying pesticides over the largely-populated mosquito areas.
He said there are between 13 and 15 different types of mosquito species here in the region, and the virus usually does not start showing up in humans until the beginning of July.
He said this early virus detection in Payette County and the spike in mosquito numbers in other regions of the state is largely due to the unusually quick jump into the warm summer months this year.
In warm, still, marshy waters which happen to spread throughout southeastern Idaho, mosquitoes are drawn toward that climate to breed. They can lay their larvae on top of the water, which is the best way for the insects to get the necessary oxygen they need. Rough waters will drown the insects, so that is why they are so attracted to placid bodies of water.
Herter said the virus is usually transmitted when an infected mosquito bites an animal or bird, where the virus multiplies inside the animal as it travels to other regions. It is then vectored into other mosquitoes which then transmits it into other humans.
But, Herter said, the buck stops with us.
That is, if a human contracts the virus from the mosquito, we cannot transmit that back into another mosquito.
Jeff Doerr is an epidemiologist with the Southeastern Idaho Public Health district and works closely with Herter.
After Doerr finds new cases of the virus break out, he reports the suspected regions to the abatement district.
Once the mosquitoes are caught in that area, they are then taken to the abatement district's lab and tested for various diseases and viruses including West Nile.
Doerr said about 80% of the people who are bitten with the virus-carrying insect never feel the symptoms. However, that still leaves 20% who can most likely tell you otherwise.
"It might be the muscle aches, the fatigue, nausea, vomiting, sometimes a rash...and flu-like symptoms that you don't normally see in the middle of the summer," Doerr said.
He added, only one percent of those who end up feeling the symptoms, contract the most severe and debilitating West Nile symptoms which might land them in the hospital.
He said everybody is equally at risk of contracting the virus, but those with weaker immune systems to begin with might feel the worst of it.
Both Doerr and Herter said this is nothing to panic over, but it's a good idea to remember to wear Deet mosquito repellent when heading into the outdoors during mosquito breeding time, and to wear long sleeves as well. Doerr said it's also a good idea to wear light-colored clothing so mosquitoes and ticks are easier to detect if they land on you.
Herter added, mosquitoes usually come out during the early morning hours and the evening hours between seven and 11 o'clock.
Doerr said, there isn't a cure for the virus, but most of the time the symptoms should cease after a few days of supported care.