First reported human cases of West Neem virus in 2020 in Yakima, Benton counties

(Photo by John Tan, CC Images)

The state’s first two cases of the West Nile virus have been confirmed this year in Yakima County and Benton County.

The West Nile virus is spread by mosquito bites, and has been found in mosquitoes in Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counts this summer.

A person from Yakima County with the virus was required to be hospitalized in the 50s, while a person from Benton County was not, in the 60s.

“We were positive in mosquitoes, and now we have the first positive in a human,” said Kathleen Cleary-Cook, a health teacher with the Benton-Franklin Health District. “We have a human case every year.”

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About 80% of West Nile patients are asymptomatic, but in rare cases, the disease can be severe or even fatal.

“Most people who contract the West Nile virus don’t even get sick, they don’t have symptoms,” Clary-Cook said. “But about 20% will develop fever.”

When symptoms appear, they may include a high fever, headache, neck stiffness, and muscle weakness.

“People can go astray, they can go into cramps, tremor with muscles, paralysis or even coma,” Cleary-Cook said.

Historically, the virus has attempted to grow crops in eastern Washington during the summer months.

To avoid the most notorious virus of 2020 – COVID-19 – many people are getting out and taking part in socially distant activities like hiking. To protect yourself from the West Nile virus during these outdoor activities, health experts recommend that you wear clothes and clothing covering your hands and feet, to prevent mosquito bites. To avoid mosquitoes at home, install screens on windows and doors and empty birdbaths and water pools elsewhere where mosquitoes can be attracted.

If you suspect that you have contracted the West Nile virus, you should seek medical attention immediately.