First W. Nile of year found


West Nile virus has been reported in Franklin County, the state's first positive finding this summer.Mosquitoes collected near Mesa in Franklin County tested positive for West Nile virus on Wednesday -- the first sign of the year that the virus is present in Washington, state Department of Health officials said today.

The state began monitoring and testing mosquitoes and dead birds around the state last month.

In 2011 Franklin, Grant, and Yakima counties reported mosquitoes that carried West Nile virus, but no people in Washington are known to have become ill. Nonetheless, the virus is present and can cause serious illness, according to experts.

Most people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus won't become ill, while others may experience mild symptoms including headache and fever that go away without treatment.

In previous years, Walla Walla County residents were encouraged to look for and report dead birds, but reductions in funding have eliminated staff to respond to those calls.

"It's an academic exercise. We know West Nile is present in the area," said Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Public Health Department. "Whether or not we're going to see any illness or not."

For about one in every 150 people infected, however, the illness can be severe, even deadly.

Avoiding mosquito bites is the surest protection, health experts say. The best strategy to avoid bites is to use bug repellent and wear long pants, long sleeves and a hat outdoors when mosquitoes are active.

Get rid of standing water that collects around your home, dumping water in wading pools, tires and unused flower pots. Store yard carts and wheelbarrows left in the open upside down, change water in pet dishes and bird baths at least twice a week. Make sure window and door screens are tight to the frame.

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