A Benton County woman in her 70s who tested positive for West Nile virus has died.
She was the first person in Washington this year confirmed to have the mosquito-borne illness, and also the state’s first West Nile death in 2016.
She mostly likely was exposed to infected mosquitoes in Benton County, state health officials said.
“Tests to specifically identify West Nile virus as the cause of her illness were performed at the Washington State Public Health Laboratories,” a state health department news release said.
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A Benton County man in his 80s also is hospitalized with West Nile virus, the release said. He also most likely was exposed in Benton County.
“So far this year, West Nile virus activity has been found in seven counties in eastern Washington. This region continues to be the ‘hot spot’ in our state due to the combination of warm weather, standing water and vegetation providing ideal habitat for mosquitoes and birds that carry the virus,” the news release said.
The West Nile activity includes the two human cases in Benton County, a horse in Yakima County, a bird in Spokane County and mosquito samples from Adams, Benton, Franklin, Grant, Stevens and Yakima counties, the health department reported.
West Nile is found in birds, and then spreads to other animals and people through mosquito bites.
Most people who contract the virus don’t become sick, but about one in five develop a fever and other symptoms, such as fever and body aches.
In rare instances, West Nile can be fatal.
People older than 60, those who’ve received organ transplants and those with medical conditions such cancer, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease are most at risk for serious illness if infected.
People are encouraged to take steps to avoid mosquito bites, including draining standing water around the home, securing doors and windows, using an EPA-registered mosquito repellent, staying indoors around dusk and dawn if possible, and wearing long sleeves, pants and a hat when mosquitoes are around.
For more information on West Nile virus, call 1-866-788-4787 or go to tinyurl.com/westnileviruswa.