West Nile virus confirmed in two Spokane Co. residents

West Nile virusSpokane Regional Health District says they've reported two human cases of West Nile virus on Monday. They're the first in-state acquired human cases of the virus in 2017.

Clinical testing by health care providers and initial laboratory testing by Washington State Public Health Laboratory confirmed the cases. The first in a male in his 60s who remains hospitalized. The second case is a male in his 50s who was briefly hospitalized and is now home recovering.

A third case was also identified in an additional Spokane County resident, who was briefly hospitalized, but the virus was likely acquired out of state.

“Although the vast majority of people with West Nile virus will not develop severe illness, some are at higher risk of severe disease, including those who are 60 years of age or older, those with compromised immune systems, or those with underlying medical conditions,” said Dr. Bob Lutz, SRHD health officer.

West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. The health district confirmed in August that mosquitoes, horses and a bird in Spokane County tested positive for the virus. Although the start of fall means mosquito populations will begin to die off, officials still urge individuals to control mosquito populations and prevent exposure to bites. 

Symptoms of West Nile virus include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash, though up to 80 percent of people will experience no symptoms. Symptoms usually develop two to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Those with more severe symptoms—such as severe headache or confusion—should seek medical attention.

Mosquito activity in the Northwest begins in the spring and continues with warm summer weather into the fall. Since identification of West Nile virus in Washington state in 2006, Spokane Regional Health District has investigated 10 confirmed or probable human cases—five of which were likely acquired in Spokane County. In 2016, there were nine total cases in Washington state with one death in Benton County, Washington.

There is no vaccine for human West Nile virus, and treatment is limited to caring for symptoms. Anyone with questions about the virus should speak to their health care provider. 

(story and image: KHQ.com)

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