West Nile in Harney County

By on Friday, September 15th, 2023 in Eastern/Southeast Oregon News More Top Stories

Harney County-As of September 6, 2023, Harney County Health Department reports that there have been two confirmed cases of West Nile illness in horses in Harney County. There have been two preliminary reports, or unconfirmed cases of West Nile viral illness in humans.  Follow-up confirmatory testing on humans is done by the Centers for Disease Control and should be available in the next few weeks.

Historically, warm weather leads to elevated mosquito activity and the threat of West Nile virus, with incidence increasing later in summer. Although the risk of contracting West Nile virus is low, learning about how it is spread and taking simple precautions can help people to avoid getting sick.

West Nile is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most infected people will show little or no signs of disease. About one in five infected people may show signs of West Nile fever. People at risk include individuals 50 yrs. of age and older, people with immune compromising conditions, and those with diabetes and high blood pressure.

West Nile symptoms may develop 3 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms may include fever above 100 degrees and severe headache, stiff neck, mental confusion, muscle weakness, shaking, paralysis or rash. It is important that you contact your health care provider if you experience any of these symptoms. Rarely, infected individuals may develop neuro-invasive disease (infection of the brain or spinal column) that can be severe or may cause death. This is especially of concern to those who have a compromised immune system and the elderly.

The fever syndrome may last from a few days to several weeks. If you are concerned about symptoms you have, please contact your health care provider.

Tips for protecting yourself:
Eliminate sources of standing water that are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, including watering troughs, bird baths, ornamental ponds, buckets, wading and swimming pools not in use, and old tires.
When engaged in outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, protect yourself by using mosquito repellants containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Picardin, and follow the directions on the container.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas.
Make sure screen doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly. 

More local and Oregon information can be found at Oregon Health Authority’s West Nile Virus webpage, or Harney County Health Department Facebook page.

If you have further questions, please call your health care provider or Harney County Health Department at (541) 573-2271 (ask for Kathy or Barbara for call-back).