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New cases of West Nile virus and Saint Louis encephalitis have been discovered in mosquitoes collected in several eastern Oregon counties, providing a good reminder for eclipse watchers of the importance of protecting yourself from mosquito bites, public health officials said.
West Nile virus and Saint Louis encephalitis, which usually present as flu-like diseases, are spread by mosquito bites. The diseases have been found in Harney, Morrow and Malheur counties, according to officials at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division.
The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University's College of Veterinary Medicine found West Nile late Wednesday in nine mosquito pools — a sample of about 50 mosquitoes collected by vector control district personnel — and Saint Louis encephalitis in two pools. Two human cases of West Nile have been reported so far in 2017, both in Malheur County.
Emilio DeBess, OHA public health veterinarian, said that as about 1 million people converge on or near the path of the total eclipse, they should prepare now to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
"As people camp out in areas where mosquitoes are active, we want to remind people that the insects are biting and have the ability to spread these diseases," DeBess said. "Please take some simple steps to protect yourselves and your families from bug bites."
DeBess said protecting animals against mosquito bites should include contacting a veterinarian about topical mosquito repellents. Horse owners should consult their veterinarian about vaccinating horses for West Nile virus.
Emilio DeBess, OHA public health veterinarian, offered the following tips for protecting yourself from mosquitoes:
• When outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, protect yourself by using mosquito repellents containing: At least 20 percent DEET but no more than 50 percent DEET; picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the U.S.A.); IR3535; oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-dio; 2-undecanone.
• Avoid sources of standing water. These are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas.
• Make sure screen doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly.
What are the symptoms?
Most people who get West Nile virus and Saint Louis encephalitis have mild symptoms such as fever, headaches and nausea. Signs of illness typically last from three to six days. In a few cases, more severe signs of illness occur. Severe signs of illness include tremors or confusion. The central nervous system also may be affected. This can result in a headache combined with fever, infection of brain fluids and fluids around the spine, or brain swelling. Consult a health care provider if you have these symptoms. Health care providers can contact their county health departments for information on disease testing services offered by the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory.