West Nile virus is a mosquito-carried virus that can cause serious illness. West Nile virus is spread to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes spread the virus when they feed on an infected bird, and then bite people, animals, or other birds.
Most people who are infected with WNV will not become ill. Two to fourteen days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, some people may develop ﬂu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches. Occasionally, they may have swollen glands or a rash. These symptoms can last for a few days or up to several weeks.
In rare cases, infection can result in a severe and sometimes fatal illness. Serious infection is marked by high fever, severe headache, stﬀ neck, muscle weakness, disorientation, and convulsions. Some symptoms may persist for years.
If you begin to experience serious symptoms of infection 2-14 days after a mosquito bite, see your doctor.
With serious West Nile illness, intensive medical care may be required, such as hospitalization, intravenous ﬂuids, and prevention of secondary infections such as pneumonia.
Anyone, at any age, can contract WNV infection. The risk of severe infection is higher among people who are 60 or older.
(for example, you won’t get it by touching or kissing an infected person). A very small number of people have been infected with WNV through blood transfusions and organ transplants, and through transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
There is no evidence that people can get West Nile virus directly from infected birds, dead or alive. However, people should avoid touching any dead bird or animal with their bare hands.
Twice a week, drain standing water on your property and routinely empty anything that holds water, including buckets, wading pools, pet bowls, tire swings, bird baths, and toys.
Keep door and window screens “bug tight.” Repair or replace them as needed.
Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeve shirts when outside, especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
Use insect repellents according to directions.
Repellents containing the following ingredients are eﬀectve against mosquitoes:
Permethrin is recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear. Permethrin treated clothing repels and kills ticks and mosquitoes and retains this eﬀect after repeated laundering. Follow directions carefully.
Repellents used on children should contain no more than 30% DEET. Insect repellents are not recommended for children younger than two months.
If you suspect you or your child is having a reaction
to an insect repellent, discontinue use, wash treated
skin thoroughly and call the Washington Poison Center
800.222.1222. If you go to a doctor, take the repellent
Birds and horses typically become infected with WNV before humans, so dead corvid birds and sick horses can be an early indicator that there is WNV activity in an area. Previously, to conduct WNV surveillance, Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) Zoonotic Disease Program operated an online dead bird reporting system. The system was intended to help with detection of WNV, and provide a means for the public to help with the surveillance. In addition to providing adequate evidence of where WNV was endemic, DOH determined that surveillance of mosquitoes is a better system for early detection of WNV in the environment. This meant discontinuation of the dead bird system to better focus resources on what benefits public health.
To report wild bird die-oﬀs contact the local office of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) at 509-892-1001. To report domestic ﬂock die-oﬀs, contact the local office of Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) at 509-533-2690.
Please DO NOT bring birds to any health district office unless you are requested to do so!
Wear gloves or use a shovel to put the bird into a plastic bag. Put into another plastic bag and close tightly.
Place the dead bird into garbage can.
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
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