Update 3:36 p.m.: Two more West Nile virus cases were reported Wednesday in mosquito colonies in Baker and Union counties, bringing the total to 12, says Dr. Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian.
West Nile reports in 2014 has been lighter than in recent years. DeBess says that’s because the dry season has eliminated some areas that normally have standing water and Malheur County, typically a West Nile hotspot, doesn’t have the budget to test its mosquitoes.
Experts capture and test mosquitoes starting May 15 and end by Sept. 15. DeBess says July, August and early September are usually when most cases are reported, especially around the summer holidays.
“When people are out enjoying their summer is when they should be most aware,” says DeBess.
So far this summer, public health officials have pinpointed 10 testing sites in Oregon with mosquitoes that are carrying the West Nile virus. That’s in Morrow, Baker, Jackson and Klamath counties. No human cases have been identified so far in 2014 in Oregon, but one person’s symptoms in Walla Walla County last week raised some concern.
Humans can get West Nile if they are bitten by an infected mosquito. Mild cases can cause fever and flu-like symptoms, but severe infections could mean brain inflammation or even death. However, the Oregon Health Authority says that most people can have the virus and experience no symptoms.
This summer, West Nile was first detected in Oregon in late July when tests found three contaminated mosquito pools in Morrow County. Experts test for the virus in the summer and through the fall.
Last year, a total of 112 cases were found in 11 counties, which included 16 infected humans. In 2012, there were 87 cases documented.
The Oregon Health Authority has advice on its website to protect yourself from possible infection:
- Eliminate standing water in and around your home and business where mosquitoes can breed.
- At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans.
- Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out.
- Remove discarded tires and other items that could collect water.
- Look for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Generally, the more active ingredients a repellent contains the longer it can protect you from mosquito bites.
- When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
- Place mosquito netting over infant carriers when you are outdoors with infants.
- Consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening, which are peak mosquito biting times.
- Install or repair window and door screens so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.