West Nile Virus Confirmed in Spokane County Residents
Individuals urged to control mosquito populations, prevent exposure to bites
SPOKANE, Wash. – Spokane Regional Health District today reported two human cases of West Nile virus—both likely acquired in Spokane County. These are the first in-state acquired human cases of the virus this year.
Clinical testing by health care providers and initial laboratory testing by Washington State Public Health Laboratory confirmed the cases. The first in a male in his 60s who remains hospitalized. The second case is a male in his 50s who was briefly hospitalized and is now home recovering.
A third case was also identified in an additional Spokane County resident, who was briefly hospitalized, but the virus was likely acquired out of state.
“Although the vast majority of people with West Nile virus will not develop severe illness, some are at higher risk of severe disease, including those who are 60 years of age or older, those with compromised immune systems, or those with underlying medical conditions,” said Dr. Bob Lutz, SRHD health officer.
West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. The health district confirmed in August that mosquitoes, horses and a bird in Spokane County tested positive for the virus. Although the start of fall means mosquito populations will begin to die off, officials still urge individuals to control mosquito populations and prevent exposure to bites.
To avoid mosquito bites, remember to ‘drain, dress and use repellent’:
- Reduce mosquito breeding sites around your home. Twice weekly, drain and routinely empty anything that holds water, such as gutters, pet bowls, tires, bird baths, etc. Keep water moving in ornamental ponds by recirculating water or by installing a fountain.
- Dress in long-sleeved shirts and long pants where and when needed.
- Use properly fitted door and window screens, and stay indoors around dawn and dusk.
- If outdoors, use a mosquito repellent in areas where mosquitoes are active.
Symptoms of West Nile virus include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash, though up to 80 percent of people will experience no symptoms. Symptoms usually develop two to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Those with more severe symptoms—such as severe headache or confusion—should seek medical attention.
Mosquito activity in the Northwest begins in the spring and continues with warm summer weather into the fall. Since identification of West Nile virus in Washington state in 2006, Spokane Regional Health District has investigated 10 confirmed or probable human cases—five of which were likely acquired in Spokane County. In 2016, there were nine total cases in Washington state with one death in Benton County, Washington.
There is no vaccine for human West Nile virus, and treatment is limited to caring for symptoms. Anyone with questions about the virus should speak to their health care provider.
The health district also offers its campaign Bring It, Summer Pests!, which features simple landscaping tricks and tips to protect a home’s exterior, giving individuals useful tools in confronting mosquitoes and other summer pests and their associated diseases.
If a resident finds a dead bird, they should not handle it with their bare hands. Information about dead birds, West Nile virus prevention, and mosquito repellents can all be found at www.srhd.org searching “West Nile virus.” More information is also available on the Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH’s) West Nile virus website.