SALT LAKE CITY -- The West Nile virus is on the increase across the country and Utah is not immune.
Public health officials across the state are reminding everyone to be vigilant about protecting themselves from mosquito bites.
So far this year, three cases of West Nile have been reported in Utah. One of those cases was reported in Box Elder County. The Weber-Morgan Health Department also knows of one case affecting a resident, but that person was exposed, diagnosed and treated out of state.
However, the virus has been detected in a number of mosquito pools across Utah and experts say the numbers do not appear to be declining.
"The best way to reduce your risk is to use an insect repellent with DEET when you're outside," said Utah Department of Health epidemiologist JoDee Baker. "Adults and children older than 2 months can safely use repellents that contain up to 30 percent DEET."
According to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Tuesday, 1,590 human cases of West Nile virus have been reported from 48 different states. There have been 66 deaths.
The 1,590 cases reported this year is the highest number of West Nile cases reported since the virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1999, according to the UDOH. More than 70 percent of the cases are in Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Michigan.
The majority of people infected, approximately 80 percent, never develop symptoms but a small percentage will go on to experience fever, headache and body aches. A more serious form of the disease, called West Nile neuroinvasive, can cause high fevers, severe headaches, neck stiffness, mental confusion and even death.
Weber-Morgan Health Department Director Gary House said people need to be vigilant because the mosquito population will continue to grow during the months of September and October. Parents are also being asked to keep using DEET on their children, even though school is back in session.
"I like to say kids go back to school but mosquitoes don't, so don't put away the mosquito repellent just because summer vacation is over," said Lori Buttars, Weber-Morgan Health Department spokesperson.
Ways to reduce your risk include using DEET from dusk to dawn, wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors, use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors and remove standing water since that's where mosquitoes lay eggs.
Dogs and cats can also get sick from the disease, although they usually recover fully. There is no vaccine available for household pets, but there is one for horses.
The CDC does not encourage pet owners to use insect repellents on pets, but encourages pet owners to keep their animals indoors and seek advice from their veterinarian.