FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. - Mosquitoes collected near Mesa in Franklin County tested positive for West Nile virus on Wednesday, the first sign of the year that the virus is present in Washington.
The Department of Health said the state began monitoring and testing mosquitoes and dead birds around the state in June.
Though Franklin, Grant, and Yakima counties had mosquitoes that carried West Nile virus last year, no people in Washington are known to have become ill, but the DOH said it's important that people are aware that the virus is here and can cause very serious illness.
Health officials said the best strategy is to avoid mosquito bites by using bug repellant and wearing long pants, long sleeves and a hat outdoors when mosquitoes are active.
Get rid of standing water that collects around homes and in wading pools, tires and old flower pots where mosquitoes are known to breed.
Change water in pet dishes and bird baths at least twice a week and make sure window and door screens can keep mosquitoes from getting in.
Most people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus won't become ill. Some may have mild symptoms including headache and fever that go away without treatment.
For about one in every 150 people who are infected, the illness can be severe, even deadly.
Severe disease can include meningitis or encephalitis and 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, the DOH said.