West Nile found in Box Elder mosquito pools

Tuesday , July 22, 2014 - 5:24 PM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

SALT LAKE CITY -- West Nile virus has been detected in mosquito pools in Box Elder and Uintah counties.

So far, there are no human cases of the illness, according to the Utah Department of Health, but public health officials are encouraging people to avoid complacency by protecting themselves from mosquito bites.

Efforts to seek comment from Bear River Health Department and Box Elder mosquito abatement officials were not immediately successful.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, although not all mosquitoes are carriers. Mosquitoes that carry the virus are typically out from dusk to dawn.

“There is no vaccine for humans. So, taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites is the key to reducing your risk for infection,” said department epidemiologist JoDee Baker. “The best way to reduce your risk is to use an insect repellent with DEET when you’re outside. Adults and children older than two months of age can safely use repellents that contain up to 30 percent DEET. Repellents are not recommended for children younger than two months of age."

 Weber-Morgan Health Department’s Lori Buttars said if you own a horse, there is a vaccine available for West Nile virus.

“It’s really an expensive choice not to get the animal vaccinated, because it (West Nile virus) really makes the animal sick. It’s also most likely going to be fatal if it develops West Nile," Buttars said.

Dogs and cats can also become infected but usually show no signs of illness. If they do, they will usually recover completely. Right now, there is no vaccine available for household pets,  UDOH says.

Last December at least 29 bald eagles in Utah were found to have died from West Nile virus after eating smaller birds infected with the disease.

West Nile virus is most commonly spread by a bite from an infected mosquito. Most people who are bitten will not show any signs or symptoms, or if they do, the symptoms may be relatively mild and include fever, body aches, nausea and swollen lymph glands, Buttars said.

However, in some people, the disease can cause severe symptoms, such as a high fever, stiff neck, severe headache, confusion, convulsions, partial paralysis and coma.

“It typically takes between three to 14 days to show symptoms after being bitten,” Buttars said. “And some of the serious symptoms can last for months and months.”

The disease was discovered in Utah for the first time in 2003. Since that time, 330 people have been reported sickened by the virus.

Buttars said other precautionary measures can also be taken in addition to wearing DEET. They include wearing long sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors, removing any puddles or standing water around the home such as swimming and wading pools, birdbaths, buckets and old tires.

West Nile virus surveillance in Utah is under way and will continue into the 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.

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