Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus have been found in Malheur County last week and

Oregon Public Health officials are urging area residents to cover up and using mosquito repellant to protect themselves.

The mosquitoes were caught in traps in the Harper/Little Valley Area, according to the Public Health Division statement, and were the first to test positive for West Nile in Oregon this year.

The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University's College of Veterinary Medicine found the virus late Friday in two mosquito pools, a sample of about 50 mosquitoes. Five pools in the county were tested.

West Nile usually presents a s flu-like disease. There is a potential risk of infection and mosquitoes have been making their presence know thanks to mild winter and high springtime temperatures, Malheur County Health Director Stephanie Dockweiler, said. "People can avoid getting mosquito bites by taking appropriate precautions to protect themselves," she said. "Mosquito bites might seem inevitable as people head outdoors, but they don't have to be."

Dr. Emilio DeBess, Oregon Public Health Division veterinarian, says simple precautions can prevent the spread of West Nile virus.

They include:

• Eliminate sources of standing water that are a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

• When outdoors at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes carry the virus are most active, use mosquito repellants containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Picardin.

• Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants in mosquito-infested areas.

• Make sure screen doors and window are in good repair and fit tightly.

DeBess also recommends protecting animals against mosquitoes and pet owners should contact their veterinarian about topical mosquito repellents. The virus also can be found in chickens, squirrels and dogs.

No human cases of the disease have been reported this year to date, but 12 human cases were confirmed in 21012.

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