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Jackson County mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus

Photo illustration by Allayana Darrow | Using mosquito repellents with DEET, lemon eucalyptus oil, IR3535 or Picaridin reduce risk of exposure to West Nile virus.

An Oregon State University veterinary diagnostic laboratory confirmed the presence Aug. 4 of West Nile virus in mosquitoes west of White City.

The Jackson County Vector Control District sets mosquito traps weekly throughout the county to collect data before sending them to the Corvallis lab for testing, according to Geoff Taylor, manager of the Jackson County Vector Control District.

Of 203 groups of mosquitoes tested since June for West Nile virus, Saint Louis encephalitis and Western equine encephalitis, one group tested positive for West Nile virus — the first positive of this mosquito season.

West Nile virus was identified in Jackson County mosquitoes in 2005-2008, 2012-2015 and 2020. The last known human case of West Nile virus in Jackson County was recorded in 2005. The virus spreads to humans via mosquito bite.

“Most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not become sick,” said Jackson Baures, Jackson County Public Health division manager.

Mild flu-like symptoms may develop, including fever, headache, body ache and weakness, neck stiffness, mental confusion, swollen lymph nodes and rash. Brain inflammation may occur in some cases. In rare cases, a neuroinvasive disease caused by the virus can be fatal. About 20% of infected individuals exhibit symptoms, according to Baures.

Taylor encouraged people who notice sick or dead birds, specifically crows, ravens, jays or robins, to contact the vector control district at 541-826-2199.

“With extended heat waves throughout Jackson County, we encourage people to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites,” Taylor said.

To reduce risk of exposure to the virus, Taylor encouraged people to drain all standing water sources, and stock troughs, decorative pools and ponds with mosquito fish, which are available for free at the district office, 555 Mosquito Lane, Central Point.

Avoiding outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas and using repellents with DEET, lemon eucalyptus oil, IR3535 or Picaridin also reduces risk of exposure to West Nile virus, Taylor said.

The Ashland Garden Club recommends watching for standing water in tree holes, gutters, wheelbarrows, buckets, tarps, bags, old tires, discarded bottle tops and low yard areas where water pools.

Citronella, lavender, feverfew, catnip, rosemary and Pennyroyal mint may repel mosquitoes as living plants, and essential oils including lavender, tea tree, citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, clove, peppermint, rose geranium and pennyroyal mint may be applied to the skin as natural repellent.