Battling the Buzz: Preventing West Nile Virus
Posted on 07/14/2023

It’s that time of year when it’s essential to be aware of potential health risks associated with the season. One such threat is the West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne illness that can cause severe health complications for both humans and animals.  



Yakima Health District and Benton-Franklin Health District received a report from Benton County Mosquito Control District of the first West Nile virus-positive mosquito pools collected in Washington this year. The infected mosquitos were collected in Yakima County, but very closely bordering Benton County. While so far this year, there have been no human or animal cases of West Nile virus in Washington; it’s important to learn about the virus and ways to keep you, your family, and your beloved pets safe.  



West Nile virus primarily causes infections in birds but can spread to people and other animals through mosquito bites.  


Most people infected with West Nile virus will not feel sick. About one in five people who are infected with the virus will develop a fever and other symptoms such as a headache or body aches.  


However, West Nile virus infection can be very serious, resulting in encephalitis, meningitis, or other complications in about one out of 150 cases. In some cases, it can be fatal. People with certain medical conditions that affect the immune system, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, or kidney disease, are at greater risk for serious illness.  



West Nile virus can cause serious illness in horses, mules, and donkeys. Though most horses that become infected will not get sick, about one in three horses that get ill from the virus will die. Ask your veterinarian about the West Nile virus vaccine to protect your horse. West Nile virus can infect dogs and cats, but it is rare. 


Symptoms that your horse may be infected with West Nile virus are stumbling, weakness, poor coordination, partial paralysis, muscle twitching, and fever, which can lead to death. 


While a vaccine is available for horses, no current vaccine prevents human illness. Instead, people must take steps to help prevent infection. 



  • Drain sources of standing water around your home each week, so mosquitoes do not grow. The mosquitoes most likely to spread West Nile virus prefer to breed in water found in containers, tires, buckets, and other small sources of stagnant water. 
  • If possible, stay indoors during prime mosquito-biting times: dusk and dawn. 
  • If going outside, use an EPA-approved insect repellent. Approved mosquito repellents have ingredients that include DEET, picaridin, PMD, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Be sure to read and follow the label directions. 
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Windows and doors without screens should be kept shut, especially at night.  
  • Dress with long sleeves, pants, and a hat when mosquitoes are present.  


The Benton-Franklin Health District works with local mosquito control districts and other local health jurisdictions to help monitor for the virus.

Benton County Mosquito Control District
CDC: West Nile Virus