Custer County Woman is Montanas First Human Victim of West Nile Virus This Year

HELENA -- A Custer County woman is the first known human victim of West Nile virus this year, state and local health officials announced Friday.


The woman, who is in her mid-20s, visited her family doctor after experiencing headaches, body aches, rash, and malaise, according to Custer County health officials. She is expected to recover fully from the illness. The womans name is being withheld in keeping with federal confidentiality laws.


In addition to the symptoms, the West Nile diagnosis was based on a positive screening test. Confirmatory testing will be performed at the Public Health Laboratory of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).


The Custer County woman is the 231st person known to have been infected by the virus since the disease first reached Montana in 2002. Last year, four deaths were attributed to West Nile.


The virus is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes, which acquire it by feeding on infected birds. The illness is not spread from person to person. Once a person has been exposed to the virus, he or she becomes immune to further infection.


Although the virus can cause serious illness in humans, about 80 percent of people who are infected notice no symptoms and about 20 percent experience mild flu-like symptoms. About 1 in 150 people infected with West Nile develops severe illness, and about one in 1,000 cases is fatal. People over the age of 50 are at greatest risk of serious illness.


Source: Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services