The first two human cases of West Nile Virus in Washington state since 2010 have been confirmed.

The Washington state Department of Health said a Pierce County woman in her 70s was likely exposed while traveling out of state and a Yakima man in his 30s was infected in the state.

West Nile Virus is most commonly transmitted through mosquito bites.

West Nile virus is hitting many parts of the nation hard this season, so it's not surprising we'd have cases among people in our state, said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. The best protection against this disease is avoiding mosquito bites. The travel-related case is a reminder to protect yourself when you travel, too.

A horse in eastern Washington was diagnosed with the infection in August and was euthanized. Several mosquito samples have also tested positive for West Nile virus in 2012, all of them in south central Washington.

West Nile Virus can cause encephalitis or meningitis. People over age 50 have the highest risk. Symptoms can include fever, headache, body aches, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and coma.

To avoid mosquito bites, DOH advises you to stay indoors around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active and use a mosquito repellent when mosquitoes are active.

Mosquitoes are often found near standing water, so be sure to turn over old buckets or cans around your home, empty water from old tires and frequently change water in birdbaths, pet dishes and water troughs.

There were 38 human cases of West Nile Virus in Washington in 2009 and one death. In 2010, there were two human cases and no deaths.

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