PROSSER - Health officials announced yesterday that a Prosser woman may have contracted West Nile virus.
Health district officials confirmed they have requested a sample from the woman that tested presumptive positive at a local laboratory be forwarded to the Washington State Department of Health for confirmation.
"Although this initial positive test may not be confirmed as West Nile virus, we are notifying the public and our medical providers about the potential case as a reminder that the virus can cause severe illness," said Dr. Larry Jecha, a health officer with the Benton-Franklin Health District.
Health district officials also noted that another five birds in Prosser, West Richland, Kennewick and Richland have tested positive for the virus.
This brings Benton County's total to six birds, one horse and more than 50 mosquito samples that have tested positive for the virus.
"This widespread West Nile virus activity indicates a high risk of cases to residents and visitors in our area," said Susan Shelton, an environmental health specialist with the health district. "The potential for human cases will be at the highest in our area for the next two months, especially if people do not take additional precautions to fight mosquito bites."
Shelton noted there is no cure for West Nile virus, but
fighting mosquito bites helps to prevent infection.
West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people with the virus have no symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 14 days after the mosquito bite.
Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, head and body aches, and possibly a rash. Serious illness that involves the nervous system, such as encephalitis and meningitis, and death are also possible.