Clark County teen contracts West Nile virus

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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A Clark County teenager is the state’s fourth confirmed human case of West Nile virus this year and the county’s first human case since 2006.

The teenage boy contracted the virus while traveling in Alabama, where he received numerous mosquito bites, said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer.

In addition to the local teen, health officials confirmed Thursday a case in a Benton County woman who had not traveled outside of the state. That woman, in her 50s, was hospitalized, according to state health officials.

Last week, state health officials confirmed the virus in a Pierce County woman in her 70s who had traveled outside of the state and a Yakima man in his 30s who had not left Washington.

Washington state has largely been spared from the virus that has swept across the country this summer. As of Tuesday, 48 states are reporting infections in people, birds or mosquitoes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Across the country, health officials have reported 2,636 human cases of West Nile virus and 118 deaths from the virus. Texas has been hit the hardest with 40 percent of the country’s cases within the state’s borders, according to the CDC.

West Nile virus is almost always transmitted to people who are bitten by an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes get the disease from feeding on infected birds. There is no evidence that West Nile virus can be spread by direct contact with infected people or animals, according to health officials.

The risk of contracting West Nile virus is low, but anyone can become infected, according to health officials. Most people who are infected with West Nile virus will not get sick. About one in five people infected will have mild symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches. About one in 150 people infected will have more severe symptoms such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and a coma.

Mosquito control districts across the state, including Clark County, are keeping tabs on mosquito populations by trapping adult flying mosquitoes and testing for the virus. Health officials in Yakima and Franklin counties detected West Nile virus in five mosquito pools, which are groups of mosquitoes taken from a location and tested. No Clark County mosquito pools have tested positive for the virus.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.