Health officials: West Nile virus still likely, so take precautions

Sep 18 2011 - 11:17pm

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With school back in session and fall just around the corner, the thought of mosquito bites might not be on many people's minds. But health officials warn this is no time to become complacent. As long as a mosquito is flying around, the risk of West Nile virus is still there, said Brian Hatch, Davis County Health Department epidemiologist. "West Nile is here in Utah forever. We're not going to see it disappear.

"Mosquito abatement has done a fantastic job this year, especially with the wet spring we had and the expectations of a mosquito problem, but they are still out there, and if you see one, you're at risk of being bitten."

Last week, a human case of West Nile was reported in Salt Lake County, according to the Utah Department of Health, and a horse was reported to be infected in Iron County.

"Just because it hasn't been reported doesn't mean it isn't here," Hatch said. "There may be a whole bunch of people who are asymptomatic and not even aware they have it, but there may also be that one unlucky person who gets it, along with the complications."

Lori Buttars, media relations director for the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said officials are concerned about prolonged activity this late in the year. Spring got a late start, she said, and temperatures are still warm enough for mosquitoes to hatch during the day.

"People also tend to let down their guard this time of year. After the kids go back to school, sunscreen and mosquito repellent and all those things you would normally do to protect yourself in the summer kind of go by the wayside," Buttars said.

Health officials are still stressing the use of DEET products, especially between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

For adults, UDOH recommends repellents containing up to 35 percent DEET. Children ages 2 months to 1 year can safely use up to 10 percent DEET.

Wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts during evening outdoor activities is also recommended, as well as removing any puddles or stagnant water around the home where mosquitoes can breed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus never show symptoms. However, those with a high fever, severe headache and stiff neck should see a health care provider immediately.

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