MABTON - A mosquito sample collected from a pond in Mabton last Tuesday tested positive for West Nile virus, providing the first sign that the virus is present in Washington state this year.
The Department of Health has been monitoring and testing dead birds and mosquitoes around the state since June.
In 2009, 38 people in Washington became sick from West Nile virus infections. Last year the state had two human cases of West Nile virus. No human cases have been identified this year, but people need to be aware that the virus is here and can cause very serious illness.
The best strategy against diseases transmitted by mosquitoes is to use bug repellant and wear long pants and sleeves outdoors when mosquitoes are active. Remove any standing water from around your home. Change water in pet dishes and bird baths at least once a week; twice a week is better. Keep screens in working order to keep mosquitoes from getting in.
Most people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus won't become ill, yet some may have mild symptoms, including headache and fever that go away without treatment. For some people, West Nile virus infection can be very serious, and even fatal. Severe disease can include meningitis or encephalitis; some neurological effects of the disease may be permanent. People over 50 and those with weak immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness.