West Nile virus has now been confirmed in Klickitat County. A resident in eastern Klickitat County was recently hospitalized for encephalitis and has tested positive at the state public health laboratory for West Nile virus.
Another resident of the eastern side of the county is suffering from symptoms of encephalitis and is a probable case for West Nile virus.
In another case, a woman living in Prosser, Benton County, which is near the Klickitat County border, was diagnosed with encephalitis. The Benton-Franklin Health Department is waiting for results from WDOH to confirm whether the woman has West Nile virus.
West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, and typically infects birds and horses. This year, the virus has been identified in six birds, three horses, and more than 160 mosquito samples in the state -- most of them in Benton and Yakima counties.
Local health professionals are concerned that the large number of birds, horses, and mosquitoes with West Nile suggests that there may be many people with the virus who are undiagnosed.
An estimated two people out of 10 infected with the virus will have symptoms of illness. Most people with the virus have no symptoms, but some people may become sick 2-14 days after a mosquito bite. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headaches and body aches, and possibly a rash. Serious illness that involves the nervous system (such as encephalitis and meningitis) and death are also possible.
Although anyone may become ill, young children, people over 50, and those with compromised immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness. Anyone suffering from symptoms of West Nile virus should see a health care provider.
The best way to prevent West Nile infection is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
The Klickitat County Health Department suggests the following steps to avoid mosquito bites:
Limit outdoor activity between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active;
Wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and hats when going into mosquito-infested areas;
When outside, wear an approved insect repellent;
Make sure window and door screens fit tight;
Eliminate standing water, where mosquitoes can lay eggs.