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West Nile virus infects two people in Washington

The Centers for Disease Control posted this map of West Nile virus (WNV) activity in the U.S. in 2012 (as of Sept. 4, 2012). - Courtesy of www.cdc.gov
The Centers for Disease Control posted this map of West Nile virus (WNV) activity in the U.S. in 2012 (as of Sept. 4, 2012).
— image credit: Courtesy of www.cdc.gov

The West Nile virus has been confirmed in two Washington state residents, the first reports of human infection since 2010.

According to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), a 70-year-old Pierce County woman, and a Yakima man in his 30s, contracted the virus recently.

It's believed the Pierce County woman got the virus while traveling out of state. The man in Yakima, described as "in his 30s" by the DOH, has not traveled outside the Yakima area recently.

"West Nile virus is hitting many parts of the nation hard this season, so it's not surprising we'd have cases among people in our state," said Mary Selecky, secretary of health. "The best protection against this disease is avoiding mosquito bites. The travel-related case is a reminder to protect yourself when you travel, too."

About 80 percent of people who are infected with the virus will show no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The virus is primarily spread through mosquito bites. Mosquitos become infected by feeding on infected birds and animals, then pass the virus on to humans and other animals. The virus is not spread through casual contact like touching or kissing.

Texas is experiencing the worst outbreak of West Nile virus since the disease first hit the U.S. So far, Texas has experienced 1,066 cases of the disease, and 43 deaths in the recent outbreak. The DOH advises Washington state residents to be mindful of mosquitoes to avoid contracting the virus.

Among those recommendations are staying indoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, and using mosquito repellent when outdoors.

The DOH advises that residents be aware of likely mosquito environments around their homes. One of the easiest precautions to defend against mosquitoes at home is to make sure there is no standing water on the property. Change out the water in bird baths and feeders, empty water that may collect in other receptacles, and so on.

The DOH notes that several mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile, with the majority of those mosquito samples coming from south central Washington.

A horse in Eastern Washington was diagnosed with the virus in August and was promptly euthanized. West Nile virus is mainly a bird-related disease, and one of the early indicators the virus may be active in an area is an increase in the number of dead birds. Residents can report dead birds online at the DOH's website at doh.wa.gov.

2009 marked the only death in Washington from West Nile virus, while that year also recorded 38 human cases in the state.

In 2010, there were two human cases reported in the state, and in 126 mosquito samples. 2011 saw five mosquito samples test positive, but no human or animal cases

There is a West Nile information line at (866) 78-VIRUS and other online resources available with the up-to-date conditions regarding West Nile in the state.

 

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