Spokane, Wash.-Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) today reported a human case of West Nile virus, as well as four cases in horses-all likely acquired in Spokane County.
Washington State Public Health Laboratory confirmed the human case, which occurred in male in his 40s who was briefly hospitalized and has since recovered. West Nile virus is spread though the bite of an infected mosquito and it is well established that some types of mosquitoes common to Spokane County are capable of transmitting the virus.
Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab confirmed the virus in the four horses, only tow of which recovered. With these confirmation, officials are urging individuals to control mosquito populations and prevent exposure to bites.
“Standing waster is a breeding gourd for mosquitoes that my be infected with West Nile virus,” said Dr. Joel McCullough, SRHD interim health officer. “During mosquito season, home and property owners should drain all standing water, at least twice a week, to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.”
These is currently no vaccine available for humans. Although less than 1 percent of people who become infected with West Nile virus will develop sever 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. Recently, a Benton County, Washington women in her 70s died from the virus.
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 when possible.
- Use a mosquito repellent when outdoors in areas where mosquitoes are active.
- Use properly-fitted door and window screens and stay indoors around dawn and dusk.
Symptoms of West Nile virus include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash, though up to 80% of people will experience not symptoms. Symptoms usually develop two to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Those with more severe symptoms-such as a severe headache or confusion-should seek medical attention.
Mosquito activity in the Northwest begins in the spring and continues with warm summer weather and into the fall. For the current season, besides the aforementioned two human cases, additional confirmed cases to date in Washington are: one other human case (another Benton County resident), nine infected horses (see Washington State Department of Agriculture’s blog, Horses Hit Hard with West Nile virus in Northeaster WA), and an infected pet bird in Spokane County.
Since West Nile virus was introduced to Washington state, SRHD investigated four other confirmed or probable human cases-only one of which was likely acquired in Spokane County. Spokane’s last reported human case of West Nile virus was in September 2009. Nationally, 48 states reported human West Nile virus infections last year.
There is no vaccine for human West Nile virus, and treatment is limited to caring for symptoms. Anyone with questions about human-acquired virus should speak to their health care provider. Specific to horses, approximately one in three horses that become ill will die. Individuals should speak with their veterinarian about West Nile virus vaccine or seek more information form the WSDA website.
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 mosquitos 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 be found at www.srhd.org searching “West Nile virus.” More information is also available on the Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) West Nile virus information line, 1-866-78-VIRUS (1-866-788-4787), and prevention tips on DOH’s West Nile virus website.