LOWER COLUMBIA RIVER - Regional public health officials are urging residents to take precautions against exposure to the West Nile virus.

The virus, carried by mosquitoes, can infect people, horses and birds. People can only get the virus from the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus doesn't spread from other animals to people or from person to person.

Corvids - large birds such as crows, magpies and jays - are most susceptible to the virus, and health officials are asking residents to keep an eye out and report dead corvids to their local health department.

Health officials ask residents to not report dead birds that are not corvids or where killed by trauma, such as being hit by a car or killed by another animal, or have been dead more than 24 hours.

Evidence indicates that the chance of a person becoming infected and ill form the West Nile virus is low. Eighty percent of those infected experience no symptoms and about 20 percent get flu-like symptoms. Less than 1 percent development serious symptoms, including headache, stiff neck, high fever, disorientation, convulsions, tremors and muscle weakness. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should immediate seek medical care. Severe cases can lead to paralysis, coma or death.

There is no human vaccine against the virus or specific treatment or cure. The best protection is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and biting.

? Empty water from old tires, empty containers, pots, plastic ground covers and anything else that holds water.

? Change water in birdbaths, ponds, pet dishes and animal troughs twice a week.

? Repair leaking faucets and sprinklers.

? Clean clogged gutters.

? Maintain pools and spas.

? Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are active.

? Avoid shaded, bushy areas where mosquitoes rest.

? Apply mosquito repellent when outdoors and following the instructions. Effective repellents contain DEET, Picaridin or oil of eucalyptus. Do not use DEET on children 2 or younger.

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