West Nile virus has been detected in Benton and Yakima counties and health officials are urging residents to take steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites.
The virus was detected in recently collected mosquitoes from both counties, a release said. No human cases have been reported this year but 13 Benton County residents and two in Franklin County had the virus last year.
“This early mosquito activity may also be a warning that we will have a long season to prevent illness from the virus this year,” said Amy Person with the Benton-Franklin Health District.
West Nile mostly affects birds but can spread to humans and other animals such as horses. There is no vaccine to prevent human infections. Most infected people show no symptoms but signs of the disease include fever, head and body aches and a rash. The most serious cases can cause encephalitis and meningitis and lead to death.
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People are encouraged to regularly drain any standing water on their property to prevent mosquito breeding, stay indoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are more likely to bite, use approved insect repellants and keep tight screens on open windows and doors.