MOSES LAKE -- The season's first West Nile-positive mosquitoes were found in a mosquito pool near Moses Lake in Grant County, health officials said Tuesday.
"Last year was the busiest so far in our state for West Nile virus," said Gregg Grunenfelder, environmental health division assistant secretary for the state Department of Health. "We had more human cases, positive mosquito samples, horse cases, and dead birds than ever last year. Dozens of people were infected and one died in Washington in 2009, so it's clear that West Nile virus can be very serious. Avoiding mosquito bites is the key to preventing infection."
Grant County Mosquito Control District No. 1 has been monitoring for the virus since early spring and spraying in areas with high mosquito populations. The district plans to continue spraying for mosquitoes this week, according to a health department news release.
In 2009, 38 people became sick from West Nile virus after being exposed in Eastern Washington or out of state. One Sunnyside woman died from the virus.
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The virus was detected in 22 dead birds, one dog, 346 mosquito samples and 72 horses. Half of the infected horses died or were euthanized. Horses can be vaccinated against the virus, and health officials recommend contacting a veterinarian to ask about the equine vaccine.
People living in areas where West Nile could spread are advised to use bug repellent and wear long pants and sleeves outdoors when mosquitoes are active, dump water in wading pools, tires or old flower pots, and get rid of any other standing water around the home.
A small percentage of people exposed to West Nile virus become seriously ill or die from meningitis or encephalitis.
The majority of people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus won't get sick. Some may have mild symptoms including headache and fever that go away without treatment.
People over 50 and those with weak immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness, health officials said.