OLYMPIA – The return of warmer weather marks the start of mosquito season, which could also mean the arrival of West Nile virus in Washington State. Mosquitoes are carriers of the infection and can transfer it to some birds, humans and horses. While there have not been any cases of humans contracting the illness in Washington, there are a couple of instances where horses have become sick.
Fortunately, horse owners can obtain shots to keep their animals from getting the infection. Thurston County Veterinarian Coordinator Dr. Bob Gilpin says springtime is the time for inoculations. "If an animal is being inoculated for the first time, a series of two shots, three to six weeks apart is needed. If the horse was previously vaccinated a booster shot is necessary. Horse owners should contact their private veterinarians for information on West Nile virus and to obtain the vaccination."
More than 60 suspected dead birds were collected from Thurston County in 2003. However, tests showed none of the birds were infected with West Nile virus. A similar testing program for crows and jays is getting underway soon for spring and summer of this year.
People should also take some precautions to avoid contracting West Nile virus. Steps include-
- Wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants while outside.
- Avoiding areas where mosquitoes are present.
- Using a "DEET" based insect repellent, according to the package instructions, when contact with mosquitoes is unavoidable.
- Limiting outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are more active.
- Repairing and using window and door screens.
Homeowners can also take steps to reduce mosquito habitat around the home through activities such as cleaning standing water out of their rain gutters, removing used tires or open containers outside where water collects in them and by cleaning out bird baths once a week.
Those who want more information on West Nile virus can visit these websites-