Two men test positive for West Nile Virus in Yakima, Benton counties; one hospitalized

Two local men, one from Yakima County and another from Benton County, have tested positive for West Nile Virus, marking the first two cases in Washington state this year, state health officials announced Friday.

According to the Yakima Health District, a man in his 50s was hospitalized due to the infection. The Benton-Franklin Health District s aid a man in his 60s was infected, but was not hospitalized.

“WNV can be a serious, even fatal, illness,” the state Department of Health said in a news release. “It can affect people, horses, birds, and other animals. WNV 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 West Nile Virus 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-registeredinsect 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.

“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. West Nile Virus season starts as early as July and can last until early October.