The results of a routine mosquito sampling earlier this month at the Gog-le-hi-te Wetlands near the Port of Tacoma have turned up positive for West Nile virus, the first detection west of the Cascades this year.

“People should assume West Nile Virus infection is possible in Pierce County and take steps to prevent breeding mosquitoes and avoid mosquito bites,” said Nigel Turner, director of the Communicable Disease division in a press release. “Most importantly, know when to get care if you have been bitten.”

In response to the detection, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will monitor five additional temporary sampling sites at “geographically diverse locations” around the county.

Mosquito season typically ends in mid-September in the region.

Though less than one percent of those infected with the virus develop severe illness (some are at higher risk, including people aged 60 or older, or with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions) eight have died from the virus this year. The virus has been found in birds in Pierce County in 2002, 2008, and 2009, with two humans testing positive in 2006.

Those with more severe symptoms, like a bad headache, stiff neck, or confusion, should seek medical attention. Symptoms typically develop anywhere from two days to two weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

Residents are encouraged to drain and routinely empty anything that holds water at least twice a week as a way to reduce mosquito breeding sites, and avoid bites. Dressing in long shirts and pants, and using mosquito repellent are other effective deterrents when the bugs are active, especially at dawn and dusk.

For more information, visit www.tpchd.org/westnile.