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West Nile virus found in Grant County mosquito: What it means and how to protect yourself

Washington state's first positive mosquito sample was reported from Walla Walla County on July 1, 2021, the Grant County Health District.

GRANT COUNTY, Wash. — A mosquito sample collected in Grant County last week has tested positive for West Nile virus, according to the Grant County Health District (GCHD).

Grant County Mosquito Control District No. 1 (GCMCD1)  reported the sample, the health district said, making it the first detection of the virus in Grant County and the seventh in Washington state for the 2021 season. GCMCD1 covers the greater Moses Lake area, including the Moses Lake Sand Dunes and Potholes. Washington state's first positive mosquito sample was reported from Walla Walla County on July 1, 2021, according to GCHD. 

Two Washington residents in Benton and Yakima counties were diagnosed with West Nile virus disease in 2020. No human cases were reported from Grant County, GCHD said. Complete data can be found on the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) website.

There are no confirmed lab reports of human or other animal cases of West Nile virus disease in 2021 but detection of the virus in the mosquito population means there is a potential for spread to humans and other vulnerable species. 

So far this year there are no confirmed lab reports of human or other animal cases, however, detection of West Nile virus in the mosquito population means there is a potential for spread of the virus to humans and other vulnerable species. 

West Nile virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. The risk of getting West Nile virus is low but anyone can become infected. People over 50 years of age or who have certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease, are at greater risk of serious illness, GCHD said.

Most people who are infected with West Nile virus will not get sick. About one in five people infected will have mild symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches. About one in 150 people infected will have more severe symptoms including headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and coma.

Those who have symptoms of a possible West Nile virus infection, especially those who have recently had mosquito bites, should contact their healthcare provider. 

“Many of us are enjoying the summer activities that were postponed or cancelled last year, but we do not want anyone to get sick because of a mosquito bite. If you haven’t already been taking steps to prevent mosquito bites, now is a great time to start,” said Stephanie Shopbell, GCHD Environmental Health Manager.

Here are steps people can take to prevent mosquito bites and reduce places where mosquitoes live and breed around homes: 

  • Stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are the most active.
  • Wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants and a hat when going into mosquito-infested areas, such as wetlands or wooded areas.
  • Use mosquito repellent. Read the label and carefully follow instructions. Take special care when using repellent on children. Mosquito repellents that contain the active ingredients DEET, Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus work best.
  • Make sure windows and doors are “bug tight” and repair or replace screens as needed.
  • Eliminate mosquito-breeding areas around your home by emptying or discarding anything that holds standing water, including bottles, cans, old tires, buckets, plastic covers and toys. Change water in birdbaths, fountains, kiddie pools and animal troughs at least twice each week. Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall and fix leaky outdoor faucets and sprinklers.

Other species at risk for West Nile virus infection are birds and horses. Certain wild birds, including crows, ravens, magpies, jays and raptors, are especially vulnerable, GCHD said. Horses are also especially vulnerable to West Nile virus, and many of those infected die or have to be euthanized. Horse owners are urged vaccinate their horses and keep those vaccinations up to date. There is no human vaccine to protect against West Nile virus.

More information about West Nile virus in Washington state is available on the DOH website