The Washington state Department of Health confirmed Friday the first two human cases of West Nile Virus for 2020. DOH said one was reported in a Yakima County man in his 50s, who was hospitalized due to the infection. The second was reported in a Benton County man in his 60s who was not hospitalized.
West Nile Virus can be a serious, even fatal, illness. It can affect people, horses, birds, and other animals. The Virus is almost always spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on birds that carry the virus. There is no evidence that Wwest Nile spreads by direct contact with infected people or animals. The majority of people infected with the Virus do not get sick. About one in five will develop a fever or other symptoms that go away without medical treatment. Even fewer, about one in 150 people infected, will have more severe symptoms.
Severe symptoms may include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and coma. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider right away.
Health officials advise people to take action to avoid mosquito bites:
- Use an effective, EPA-registered insect repellent.
- Cover up: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors.
- Avoid mosquito prime time. Many mosquitoes bite in the evening between dusk and dawn. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing during evening and morning hours.
- Mosquito-proof your home by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitos outside.
- Reduce mosquito-breeding areas around your home by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths on a regular basis.
West Nile Virus season can run as late as early October.
“Spending time outdoors can help with social distancing to prevent COVID-19, but it can also put you at risk for mosquito-borne disease,” said epidemiologist Hanna Oltean. “People throughout Washington should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.”
West Nile Virus has been detected this summer in mosquitos in Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counties; historically, counties across Washington have been affected, although risk is generally highest in Eastern Washington.
If you have a story idea for the PNW Ag Network, call (509) 547-1618, or e-mail [email protected]