OLYMPIA – Outdoors enthusiasts across Washington are reminded to use mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeve shirts and pants while in the field, after a dead bird found in Yakima County tested positive for West Nile virus.
The dead magpie is the first West Nile virus-positive bird found in Washington since 2002. According to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), two mosquito samples, also found in Yakima County, tested positive for the virus.
West Nile virus is primarily a bird disease. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on an infected bird and can pass the virus on to humans, horses and other hosts. DOH officials said the risk of becoming ill from the virus is low, and there have been no human cases of West Nile in Washington.
“We urge hunters, anglers and others who are planning to spend time outdoors to take a few simple precautions to reduce the likelihood of coming into contact with the virus,” said Rocky Beach, WDFW Wildlife Diversity Division Manager.
Besides using repellent and clothing to avoid mosquito bites, bird hunters should practice the same precautions that WDFW urges all hunters to use when handling any harvested game species, including using rubber gloves when cleaning the animals, Beach said. Because heat kills the virus, eating a cooked game bird should pose no health risk to humans.
WDFW officials said there is no known evidence that West Nile virus is spread directly from harvested game birds to humans, nor has the virus been detected in any Washington state game bird species.
Additional information on the virus and protective measures can be found on the Washington Department of Health's West Nile virus website, at http://www.doh.wa.gov/WNV on the Internet.