PORTLAND &

Two Eastern Oregon residents have tested positive for the West Nile virus, the first human cases in the state this year, health officials said.




Tests confirmed that a Malheur County man contracted the virus in late July and a woman in Union County became infected earlier this month, said Emilio DeBess, a veterinarian and epidemiologist with the Oregon State Public Health Division.




Neither case proved fatal.




Last year, 73 people were infected in Oregon, with two dying from complications related to the virus.




"It's still difficult to tell, but it doesn't appear that we will have as many human cases this year," DeBess said Monday. "But we've been proven wrong before."




Also Monday, public health officials said a dead robin found in Portland was the second bird in Multnomah County this summer to test positive for West Nile.




"This confirms that West Nile virus is established in Multnomah County this year," said Chris Wirth, Manager of Multnomah County's Vector and Nuisance Control. "We have not seen any human cases originating in Multnomah County, but it does mean that people need to take precautions against mosquitoes."




Oregon officials have been monitoring mosquitoes and birds for the appearance of West Nile virus since 2000.




The virus is transmitted to humans through mosquitoes that pick up the virus by feeding on the blood of infected birds.




Health experts say that most infected people will not notice symptoms or might have a mild illness. The infection is more serious to older people and those with weak immune systems.




People can protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants; using mosquito repellent, preferably one that contains DEET; and avoiding working or playing outside at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active.




Homeowners also should eliminate sources of standing water.