West Nile Virus Season Begins In Utah

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Five separate mosquito pools in Utah have tested positive for West Nile virus, three in Salt Lake County, one in Washington County and one in Box Elder County. Public health officials urge residents to take precautionary measures to avoid exposure.

Local Mosquito Abatement Districts (MADs) began weekly trapping and testing of mosquito samples at several locations throughout the state at the beginning of June. Mosquitoes trapped and tested this week in both Salt Lake and Washington Counties tested positive for West Nile virus, which according to JoDee Summers, the Vectorborne/Zoonotic Disease Epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health, is a little earlier in the year than in past years.

The recent wet weather has lead to increased mosquito populations and Summers says, “This could be one of the worst mosquito seasons in Utah in more than two decades.” Utah residents are encouraged to take personal precautions to avoid exposure to mosquito bites. Prevention measures include the following:

• Use mosquito repellents containing DEET or Picaridin when outdoors from dusk to dawn, when West Nile-infected mosquitoes are biting,


• Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors,

• Remove standing water in tires or other containers to eliminate mosquito breeding areas.

West Nile virus infections in humans are rare, but they do occur. Since 2003, there have been 318 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus in Utah. Symptoms of the severe form of West Nile virus include: high fever, severe headache and stiff neck. If you are experiencing symptoms of West Nile virus, contact your health care provider immediately.

Most people who become infected with West Nile virus will not experience any symptoms, but about 20 percent will develop moderate to severe flu-like symptoms. While anyone can become infected with West Nile virus and develop more severe symptoms, research shows that the risk of severe illness is greater for those with diabetes and weakened immune systems. Risk of severe illness also increases with age.

Less than 1 percent of infected individuals will experience the most severe form of West Nile virus infection; symptoms of this type may include headache, paralysis and other illnesses of the brain and spinal cord. Complications may include prolonged or permanent disability.


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