(Salt Lake City, UT) – Public health officials across Utah are reminding all residents who plan to spend some or all of the upcoming holiday weekend outside to protect themselves from mosquito bites. So far, four human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) have been reported in Utah, one in Utah County, one in Salt Lake County, one in Box Elder County, and the fourth in the TriCounty Health Department area. The Salt Lake County resident died. Positive mosquito pools have been identified in six health districts, but since not all counties actively test for WNV in local mosquitoes and animals, it’s always a good idea to take precautions.
Utah Department of Health epidemiologist Dallin Peterson urges Utahns to avoid complacency. “While we aren’t seeing the numbers we did at this time last year, mosquitoes are still active. Taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites is the best way to reduce your risk for infection since there is no vaccine for humans.”
While West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, not all mosquitoes carry the virus. The mosquitoes that carry the virus are typically out between dusk and dawn.
“Use mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus when outdoors,” says Peterson. “Adults and children older than two months of age can safely use repellents that contain up to 30% DEET,” Peterson added. Repellents are not recommended for children younger than two months of age. Always follow the label instructions.
Other precautionary measures include:
• Wear long sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors.
• Remove any puddles or standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed, including birdbaths, swimming/wading pools, old tires, buckets, and plant containers.
• Report bodies of stagnant water to the local Mosquito Abatement District (MAD). Visit http://www.umaa.org/ for a list of MADs.
• Contact a veterinarian for information on vaccinating horses.
A majority of people infected by this virus (70–80%) won’t notice any symptoms while some people may experience flu-like symptoms or worse. The elderly and people with poor immune systems are at higher risk for symptomatic disease. The most serious cases can lead to hospitalization, disability, or death. Symptoms of the severe form of West Nile virus include: high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, disorientation, and confusion. If you are experiencing symptoms of West Nile virus, please contact your health care provider immediately.
West Nile virus surveillance in Utah is underway and will continue into early fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit www.health.utah.gov/wnv. Throughout the West Nile virus season, the UDOH web site will be updated each Wednesday with available detection information.
# # #