Be careful of mosquitoes and West Nile Virus in Utah this holiday weekend

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – COVID-19 is not the only virus in town, the Utah Department of Health sent out another heads up. This time for West Nile Virus. Health department officials are reminding everyone to take precautions against the mosquitoes especially as the Pioneer Day weekend approaches.

The Utah Department of Health released the following information to ABC4:

Public health officials across Utah are reminding all residents who plan to spend some or all of the upcoming holiday weekend outside to protect themselves from mosquito bites. So far, no human cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) have been reported and only one positive mosquito pool has been reported.

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But according to Hannah Rettler, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), it is likely we will begin to see increased mosquito activity soon. “Just because no human cases have been reported doesn’t mean mosquitoes aren’t active. Taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites is the best way to reduce your risk for infection,” says Rettler. She offers these tips:

  • Wear long-sleeves, long pants, and socks while outdoors and use an insect repellent with 20%-30% DEET, which is safe to use during pregnancy. Repellents are not recommended for children younger than two months of age.
  • The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.
  • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Remove any puddles of water or standing water including in pet dishes, flower pots, wading and swimming pools, buckets, tarps, and tires.
  • Report bodies of stagnant water to your local Mosquito Abatement District (MAD). Visit http://www.umaa.org/ for a list of MADs.
  • Keep doors, windows, and screens in good condition and make sure they fit tightly. 
  • Consult with an immunization travel clinic before traveling to areas that may have mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika or dengue and take the necessary precautions.

“It is important to remember that WNV can cause very serious illness, especially in individuals older than 50 and those who are immune-compromised.”

Hannah Rettler, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health

There are some things about West Nile Virus you should remember, WNV is usually transmitted to Human’s through the bite of an infected mosquito. In 2019, Utah had 21 confirmed cases throughout the state, including two people who died of West Nile infections.

A majority of the people infected by this virus (70-80%) won’t notice any symptoms, while some people will experience flu-like symptoms or worse.

Elderly people with poor immune systems are at higher risk for symptomatic disease. The most serious cases can lead to hospitalization, disability, or death. Symptoms of the severe form of WNV include high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, disorientation and confusion.

If you experience symptoms of West Nile Virus, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.

In Utah, WNV surveillance is underway and will continue into the early fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit www.health.utah.gov/wnv

Throughout the WNV season the Utah Department of Health will update the website each Wednesday with available detection information.

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