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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Walla Walla man contracts West Nile virus

Tribune News Service

A Walla Walla man has been hospitalized after becoming exposed to the West Nile virus, the first reported case this year in Walla Walla County.

The man, in his 60s, likely contracted the mosquito-borne virus near his home, Meghan DeBolt, director of Walla Walla County Department of Community Health said today. His identity and address were not released due to privacy laws.

The West Nile virus typically begins in September and runs through the end of October. Walla Walla is seeing an early start, following what health officials are seeing across the state, DeBolt said.

“Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon are the perfect breeding spots for West Nile,” she said. “And we have no vector control district in the city of Walla Walla.”

So far, Oregon has reported no cases of West Nile this year.

Washington has reported four cases, with each victim being exposed within the state. A Benton-Franklin County resident died earlier this month from the infection.

The Walla Walla man reportedly has underlying health problems, increasing the likelihood the infection could cause severe illness.

People 60 and older or with certain medical conditions are at greatest risk for serious illness.

West Nile virus can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

Most people get infected by the bite of an infected mosquito that bit an infected host bird. In a very few instances, the virus has been spread by blood transmissions and organ transplants, and from mother to baby during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several mosquito, bird and horse samples have tested positive across the state with over 90 confirmed samples in total. There had been no confirmed samples in Walla Walla County until now.

However, now that it’s known to be here, the county as well as Milton-Freewater across the state line and other area communities are at greater risk, DeBolt said.

The CDC said there are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms. People with milder symptoms typically recover on their own, although some symptoms may last for several weeks. In more severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication and nursing care.

It is imperative people protect themselves from the virus as much as they can, DeBolt said. Following are precautions to take:

- Use bug repellent and protective clothing from dusk to dawn or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.

- Use of insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products can provide longer-lasting protection.

- When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection.

- Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside. Use air conditioning rather than open windows.

- Reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by regularly emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths.

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