Category Archives: West Nile Virus

Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus found in five Washington counties

Culex tarsalis mosquito about to begin feeding.

Photo: James Gathany/CDC

As people head outside to enjoy Labor Day Weekend, the Department of Health urges everyone to avoid West Nile virus by protecting themselves from mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus have been found in Yakima, Spokane, Grant, Franklin, and Benton counties this year.

Although there have been no reports of human cases acquired in our state this year, it’s important to be aware that the virus is here and can cause very serious illnesses.

Most people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus won’t get sick. Some people will develop mild symptoms including headache and fever that go away without treatment.

However, West Nile virus infection can be very serious and even fatal. Severe disease can include meningitis or encephalitis, and some neurological effects of the disease may be permanent. People over 50 and those with weak immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness.

It’s important to avoid mosquito bites to prevent infection. The best strategy is to wear pants and long sleeve shirts and use bug repellant when outdoors during times when mosquitoes are active.

It’s important to carefully follow the instructions on the repellent label — especially when using repellent on children. The strength of the repellant and the application method may be different.

Tracking and monitoring shows that most West Nile virus is found in south Central Washington. Liz Dykstra, public health entomologist for the Department of Health, says the combination of warm weather and standing water created by irrigation, along with trees and other vegetation, provides ideal habitat for mosquitoes and birds that carry the virus.

To learn more:

Updated West Nile virus information, prevention tips, and testing information are available online.

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West Nile virus detected in mosquito samples collected in Yakima County

Culex tarsalis mosquito about to begin feeding.

Mosquitoes in two samples collected in Yakima County have tested positive for West Nile virus — almost a month earlier than in previous years, the Washington State Department of Health Reports

These results are the first sign that the virus is active in Washington this year. Testing mosquito samples and dead birds for West Nile virus began just last week across the state.

“Avoiding mosquito bites is the key to preventing infection and possible illness,” said Maryanne Guichard, assistant secretary of Environmental Public Health. “Many people will be outdoors now with the warmer weather, so it’s important to take steps to prevent West Nile virus.”

  • People who spend time outdoors should use bug repellent with DEET, picaridin, or IR 3535; some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long-lasting protection against mosquito bites.
  • Wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts when outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active is another helpful strategy.
  • Getting rid of standing or stagnant water from cans, flower pots, buckets, and other containers reduces mosquito habitat around homes and businesses where mosquitoes can breed.
  • Changing water in birdbaths, wading pools, and pet dishes at least twice a week will discourage them from taking up residence.
  • Make sure window and door screens are “bug tight,” or replace them.

Washington residents are encouraged to use the Department of Health’s online reporting system toreport dead birds. Often, dead birds are the first sign that West Nile virus is circulating in a community.

Most 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. For some people, West Nile virus infection can be very serious, and even fatal.

Severe disease can include meningitis or encephalitis. Some neurological effects of the disease may be permanent. People over 50 and those with weak immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness.

Photo: James Gathany/CDC

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West Nile virus tracking resumes; public asked to report dead birds online

A black crowOLYMPIA - West Nile virus tracking and monitoring season is underway and an updated online dead bird reporting system is available for state residents to use. Dead birds can be the first sign that West Nile virus is circulating in a community.

“Tracking dead birds and West Nile virus gives people information they need to avoid getting sick,” said Maryanne Guichard, assistant secretary of Environmental Public Health. “Avoiding mosquito bites is the key to preventing West Nile virus. Nationally, last year saw the most reported West Nile virus illnesses since 2003, and it has made a few state residents sick in recent years, but its unpredictable. We dont know how many people may be affected this year.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just reported final data for the 2012 season, with 5,674 cases of West Nile virus disease in people in 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). That total includes 286 deaths.

Last year in Washington, two people acquired West Nile virus in-state and two more were likely exposed while traveling outside the state; none died.

West Nile virus can cause illness in people, birds, horses, and other mammals if bitten by an infected mosquito. Dead bird monitoring can help provide information on areas where the virus may be active.Washington residents may report dead birds online now through October. Crows, ravens, jays, magpies, and hawks are particularly important to report because they often die from West Nile virus infection.

Most people bitten by an infected mosquito carrying West Nile virus wont get sick. Some may develop mild symptoms such as fever or headache that go away without treatment.

People with weak immune systems and those over 50 years old are more likely to develop serious illness, which may include meningitis or encephalitis. Some neurological effects can be permanent. West Nile virus disease can be fatal.

Small changes to the way we do things helps defend against West Nile virus. Staying indoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active can help you avoid mosquito bites. Wearing long sleeves and long pants outdoors during these times is also good protection.

Make sure window and door screens are “bug tight,” or replace them  especially torn screens. Use an effective mosquito repellent on exposed skin to keep mosquitoes away. When using repellent on children, read the label and follow the instructions carefully.

Removing items around your home that can become mosquito habitat can help you avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes only need a small amount of water for breeding. Emptying stagnant water in flower pots, old tires, buckets, and other water-collecting items, can make it harder for mosquito larvae to grow into biting adults. Change water in birdbaths, animal troughs, and wading pools twice a week.

The online reporting system is active now. People without online access can contact their local health agency to report dead birds. Regular updates are available on the agencys West Nile virus information line, 1-866-78-VIRUS (1-866-788-4787) and the West Nile virus website.

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Culex tarsalis mosquito about to begin feeding.

Two cases of West Nile infections confirmed in Washington

Culex tarsalis mosquito about to begin feeding.

Photo: James Gathany/CDC

Two Washington state residents have been infected by the West Nile virus, Washington state health officials report.

One case, Pierce County woman in her 70s was likely exposed to the virus while traveling out of state, but the other case, a Yakima man in his 30s, hadn’t left the state.

As of September, a total of 1,993 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 87 deaths, have been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Over 70 percent of the cases have been reported from six states (Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan) and almost 45 percent of all cases have been reported from Texas.

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected by biting an infected bird that carries the virus.

Most people infected with the virus have no or only mild symptoms, but the infection can be severe, even fatal, with virus attacking the brain and spinal cord. People over 50 years are the most vulnerable to serious infection.

Symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and coma. People with severe symptoms should contact a health care provider, health officials said.

The best protection is to avoid being bit by mosquitos, health officials say:

Following a few precautions can help people avoid mosquito bites: stay indoors around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active; and use a mosquito repellent when mosquitoes are active. People who spend a lot of time doing things outdoors like farming, hiking, at sports events, or fishing and hunting should be careful to avoid insect bites. Always follow label instructions when using mosquito repellents.

It’s also important to reduce mosquito habitat around the home. Turning over old buckets or cans; emptying water from old tires; and frequently changing water in birdbaths, pet dishes, and water troughs helps eliminate the small puddles of water in which many mosquito larvae grow.

Washington State Department of Health

West Nile virus is primarily a bird disease, and often dead birds are an early sign that the disease is active in an area. People may report dead birds online. No dead birds have been reported with the infection so far this year in the state, health officials said.

To learn more:

  • Contact the West Nile virus information line, 866-78-VIRUS.
  • Visit the Department of Health’s West Nile virus webpage.
  • A map showing where the virus has detected is online.
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Culex tarsalis mosquito about to begin feeding.

Protect yourself and your family against West Nile virus

Culex tarsalis mosquito about to begin feeding.

Photo: James Gathany/CDC

Although there were no cases of West Nile virus infections in Washington state last year, Washing state residents should still take steps to protect themselves this year, Washington State Department of Health officials warn.

West Nile virus is unpredictable, and there’s no way to know for sure how much activity will be seen in Washington state this season, health officials said.

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected by biting an infected bird that carries the virus.

Most people infected with the virus have no or only mild symptoms, but the infection can be severe, even fatal, with virus attacking the brain and spinal cord. People over 50 years are the most vulnerable to serious infection.

One way to reduce the risk of infection is to eliminate stagnant water where mosquitos can breed, health officials said:

The wet spring created perfect conditions for breeding mosquitoes. Even small amounts of stagnant water collected in buckets, old tires, cans, or flower pots become habitat for mosquito larvae. Water in birdbaths, animal troughs, and wading pools should be changed twice a week.

Other steps health officials recommend include:

  • Limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are the most active.
  • Wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and hats when going into wetlands or woods.
  • Use an effective repellent on exposed skin; follow directions on the product label.
  • Make sure window and door screens fit tight; repair or replace broken screens.
  • Also, fix leaky outdoor faucets and sprinklers.

The worst year for West Nile in Washington state was 2009, when there were 38 confirmed cases, one of whom died.

Last year the five mosquito samples in Franklin, Grant, and Yakima counties tested positive for the virus, but no infections were detected in birds or horses, another animal that is often infected.

A black crowBecause West Nile virus is primarily a disease of birds, especially crows, ravens, jays, magpies, and hawks, locating and testing dead birds is one way health officials can track the virus.

The Department of Health is asking people to watch for dead birds and report them online or contact their local health agency. Dead bird monitoring is encouraged from May through November.

Your reports will help health officials to identify unusual increases or clusters of bird deaths that  may indicate West Nile virus is present.

To learn more:

  • Regular updates are also available by calling the toll-free West Nile virus information line, 1-866-78-VIRU
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A black crow

West Nile virus trackers ask public to report bird deaths

King County health officials are asking the public to help track the spread of West Nile virus by reporting dead crows, ravens, jays and magpies.A black crow

These birds are particularly vulnerable to the mosquito-borne virus and their deaths can be a sign that West Nile carrying mosquitos are in the area.

Over the next three months, dead birds reported will be collected for laboratory testing for West Nile virus if they are deemed suitable candidates for testing, health officials said.

To be tested, the bird must be a crow, raven, jay, or magpie, dead for less than 24 hours, and have no visible trauma or decay.

West Nile virus was not detected in King County last year, but it was present in previous years, health officials said.

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected by biting an infected bird that carries the virus.

Photo: Cynthia Goldsmith - CDC

West Nile virus is not spread by person-to-person contact, nor is it transmitted directly from birds or other animals to people. Mosquito season, when West Nile virus is of most concern, runs from spring through late fall.

Most people infected with the virus have no or only mild symptoms, but the infection can be severe, even fatal, with virus attacking the brain and spinal cord. People over 50 years are the most vulnerable to serious infection.

Last year, more than 1,000 cases of West Nile virus infections were reported nationwide, of whom 57 died.

Horses are also susceptible to West Nile virus infection, which can result in severe disease or death, health officials said, and horse owners should contact their veterinarian because a vaccine is available for horses.

To report a dead crow, raven, jay, or magpie to public health officials call 206-205-4394 or report the bird online.

How to prevent infection

Protect yourself from mosquitoes by eliminating their breeding habitat:

The mosquito most responsible for West Nile virus in our area is the northern house mosquito Culex pipiens, which prefers to lay eggs in standing water common around most houses. Even small amounts of water, such as in plant saucers or a clogged gutter, can produce many mosquitoes. Remove this habitat to reduce the number of mosquitoes near your home:

  • Tip out containers that collect water, including barrels, buckets, wheelbarrows, bottles, wading pools, birdbaths, animal troughs and plant saucers
  • Dump water off of tarps and plastic sheeting and get rid of used tires
  • Clean garden ponds, circulate water in fountains and cover rain barrels with mosquito screens
  • Clean leaf-clogged gutters and repair leaky outdoor faucets
  • Repair ripped windows and door screens and make sure they fit tight so adult mosquitoes can’t get into your home
  • Help elderly neighbors with these actions

To learn more:

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A black crow

See a dead bird? Report it to Public Health

A black crowAs part of their efforts to detect and track West Nile virus, King County health officials want you to report any dead birds you may see.

The virus is spread to birds, humans, horses, and other animals by mosquito bites.

Dead birds can serve as an early warning sign that mosquitoes carrying the virus are in an area.

Health officials are particularly interested in crows, jays, magpies, ravens and raptors, since these species are particularly vulnerable to West Nile virus infections.

To learn how to how to safely handle and report a dead bird go to the King County West Nile website, where you can find an online reporting form, or call 206-205-4394.

West Nile virus appears to be on the rise, infecting 38 people statewide last year.

West Nile infection can be very serious, and even fatal, for some people, Washington State health officials warn:

While most people bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus don’t become ill, some may have mild to severe flu-like symptoms. A few may develop a serious neurological disease. People over 50 and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk for serious illness.

To reduce your risk of infection, health officials advice that you avoid mosquito bites and clear your property of standing water where mosquitos breed:

  • Stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active (dusk to dawn).
  • Make sure screens on doors and windows are working properly.
  • Cover exposed skin with light-colored clothing when outside in the evening.
  • Use an effective repellent on exposed skin. Always follow the directions on the label.
  • Reduce mosquito larvae habitat around the home by dumping standing water.
  • Change water in birdbaths, fountains, wading pools, animal troughs, and other sources twice a week.

To learn more:

  • Visit the King County West Nile virus website.
  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) West Nile virus website.
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West Nile virus detected in dead crow found in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood

CrowPublic health officials report that a dead crow found in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood on August 24th was infected with the West Nile virus.

The virus commonly infects birds and is spread by mosquitos, who can also transmit the virus to humans.

Most people infected by a mosquito virus will not become ill, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, but about 20 percent will develop an illness called West Nile Fever.

Photo: Cynthia Goldsmith - CDC

West Nile Virus / Photo: Cynthia Goldsmith, CDC

The typical symptoms of West Nile fever are fever, headache, fatigue and, occasionally, a rash on the trunk, swollen lymph nodes and eye pain.

However, a small proportion of people–about one in 150 who are infected–will develop severe disease in which the virus attacks the brain and nervous system.

Such infections can cause convulsions, coma, paralysis, permanent neurological injury and, sometimes, death.

The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to more severe infections.

It is the first time this year that the virus has been detected in King County.

“There are still mosquitoes outdoors during the cooler fall months, so protect yourself against mosquito bites,” said Dr. Sharon Hopkins, Public Health veterinarian for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “The risk of contracting West Nile virus is not yet over for this season.”

To learn more:

  • Visit Public Health – Seattle & King County’s West Nile information page, which includes information about how to avoid mosquito bites.
  • Or call the Public Health – Seattle & King County West Nile hotline: 206-205-3883.
  • Visit the Washington State Department of Health West Nile information Web page.
  • Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s insect bite prevention page.

If you find a dead bird report it by Public Health at 206-205-4394 or by reporting on-line at www.kingcounty.gov/health/westnile

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