First Presumptive Human Case of West Nile Virus in Malheur County

The Malheur County Health Department has announced that an adult living in the Ontario area has tested positive for West  Nile virus – the first presumptive human case of the virus in Malheur County this year.

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes which have been infected by feeding on birds which have the virus. In rare instances, the virus may be spread from person to person through organ donation, blood transfusion, breastfeeding, or from pregnant mother to fetus.

The disease affects the nervous system,  and up to 80 percent of people who are infected will not display any signs of illness at all. Those who have underlying health conditions, however, could become seriously ill.

West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999, and the number of Oregonians infected with the virus fluctuates every season.

While most people do not develop symptoms from this virus, some people who develop illness may experience mild symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches; occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands may be noticed. These symptoms may last a few days or as long as several weeks. Those who are older than 50 or have immunocompromised conditions can become seriously ill. Seek medical attention and testing if you develop symptoms compatible with West Nile virus infection.  

People who are concerned about mosquitoes should cover up exposed skin and use an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package directions. Residents are also urged to monitor their own yards and gardens for areas of high mosquito activity, especially standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Small amounts of water in a discarded can or container will support dozens of mosquitoes, as will clogged rain gutters or drain pipes.

For additional information on West Nile virus, visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

Some exceptions to the school mask rule

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Yesterday, the Oregon Department of Education released updated guidance regarding wearing masks in school. As your local public health authority, we know that vaccination, mask-wearing, social distancing and frequent hand-washing help reduce the spread of the virus which causes COVID-19. Most children in schools are not vaccinated against COVID-19, so we encourage parents and schools to ensure children are maintaining safety measures, particularly as we are currently seeing new high numbers of infections across Oregon.

The guidance from ODE and the Oregon Health Authority outline the situations in which individuals in schools will not be required to wear a mask. These situations include:

  • Sleeping
  • Actively eating or drinking
  • Engaged in an activity that makes wearing a mask, face covering or face shield not feasible, such as when actively swimming
  • In a private individual workspace, meaning an indoor space within a public or private workplace used for work by one individual at a time that is enclosed on all sides with walls from floor to ceiling, and with a closed door
  • Must remove the mask, face covering or face shield briefly because the individual’s identity needs to be confirmed by visual comparison
  • Practicing or playing a competitive sport at any level
  • Performing, including but not limited to playing music (an instrument which requires using the mouth), delivering a speech to an audience, and theater
  • Engaged in a sport during physical education class such as swimming, other water sports, or a sport where wearing a mask could be a strangulation hazard, such as gymnastics or wrestling
  • Alone in a private office enclosed by walls on all sides with a door that is closed
  • Under the age of 5 (unless the individual is riding a school bus, in which case all individuals over age 2 will be required to wear a face covering)
  • In preschool or early learning environments, individuals under age 2 are not required to wear face coverings.

The Oregon Health Authority will review the situation monthly, with the goal of returning to local decision-making.