West Nile virus confirmed in Benton County Mosquito Control District

Environmental monitoring for West Nile virus, which includes testing mosquito samples and dead birds, is underway across the state. On the heels of our state’s busiest year for West Nile virus cases, state health officials agree it’s important that people protect themselves.

“Wear sleeves and long pants, and cover exposed skin with an effective repellent to avoid mosquito bites,” said Gregg Grunenfelder, of the state Department of Health. “This latest detection, coming just days after mosquitoes collected in Grant County tested positive, leaves no doubt that the West Nile virus season is here.”

A second West Nile virus positive mosquito sample from Grant County has also been reported this week. While there have been no human infections detected in Washington yet this year, there were 38 reported in 2009, including one death; all of the human exposures were in eastern Washington or out of state. Last year, West Nile virus was also detected in 22 dead birds, 346 mosquito samples, 72 horses, and a dog.

People can report dead birds (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/Zoo/WNV) using the state health department’s dead bird reporting system or by contacting their local health agency (www.doh.wa.gov/LHJMap/LHJMap.htm).

For some people, West Nile virus infection can be very serious, and even fatal. Some people may develop meningitis or encephalitis; some neurological effects may be permanent. The majority of people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus won’t become ill, yet some may have mild symptoms including headache and fever that go away without treatment. People over 50 and those with weak immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness.

Additional mosquito bite prevention tactics (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/Zoo/WNV/WNVQA.html) are available online.

Recorded audio quotes on West Nile virus prevention (http://www.doh.wa.gov/NewsRoom) are available on the Department of Health