Two Washington state residents, including one from Pierce County, have come down with West Nile Virus, local and state health officials said today. The Pierce County resident, a woman in her 70s, likely contracted the disease while traveling outside the state, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reported. A Yakima-area man in his 30s probably was exposed to the virus while inside Washington, the state Department of Health said. It is the first time in two years health officials have detected the virus in Washington residents, state health officials said.
There have been no confirmed samples of the virus in mosquitoes in western Washington, but some have tested positive in central Washington and one horse that was carrying the disease was put down there earlier this year. Health officials are not warning of an outbreak of the sometimes debilitating disease but are advising people to take precautions to protect themselves, like avoiding mosquitoes and doing what they can to eliminate standing water where the insects lay their eggs. Although we have yet to seen signs of West Nile activity in Pierce County, the case in Yakima and increased activity across the nation reminds us that the risk is real and the need to raise awareness and avoid mosquito bites, said Anthony Chen, director of health for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.