Box Elder resident first 2012 death from West Nile in Utah

Oct 10 2012 - 6:31am

LOGAN -- The state has recorded its first West Nile virus death of the year.

Public health officials from the Bear River Health Department and the Utah Department of Health announced the death Tuesday.

Health officials declined to release the man's identity. However, an obituary that appeared Saturday in the Standard-Examiner for John Max Baugh, 84, a Box Elder County resident, attributed his death at Ogden Regional Medical Center to complications from West Nile.

"This unfortunate death of a community member reminds us of the seriousness of West Nile virus. Although we are late into the year, we know West Nile virus is present in Box Elder County, and we encourage citizens to protect themselves until the first hard freeze," said Lloyd Berentzen, executive director of the Bear River Health Department.

To date, four cases of the virus have been documented this year with the Utah Department of Health.

Two of those cases were in Box Elder County, and one was in Weber County, although the latter individual was exposed to the virus outside of the state, said Weber-Morgan Health Department spokeswoman Lori Buttars.

This year, a total of 3,969 cases -- including 163 deaths -- have been reported nationwide to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This year marks the highest number of cases reported to the CDC since 2003. Texas has been hit the hardest this year, with 1,438 reported cases and 54 deaths.

UDOH epidemiologist JoDee Baker, said Utah's low case count so far this year shouldn't be taken lightly.

"Utah mosquito abatement districts work diligently to control the mosquito population," she said.

"Both mosquitoes and weather can play a role in how large an outbreak we see."

In addition to the reported cases, 16 mosquito pools across the state have tested positive for the virus.

"It appears that mosquito eggs can survive the winter, especially if it's mild," Buttars said. "That's how the disease perpetuates from year to year."

Even though the weather is getting cooler, health officials say it's still best to take precautions against West Nile. Wearing DEET from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, is encouraged.

Remove standing water, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, repair any holes in screens and clean clogged rain gutters and downspouts.

Once an infected mosquito bites, it can take three to 15 days for symptoms to appear, according to the CDC.

While most people don't show any symptoms, approximately 20 percent do. Those symptoms can include fever, body aches and possibly a rash.

About one in 150 people will develop severe symptoms, including stiff neck, disorientation, muscle weakness, seizure, coma and even death.


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