Multiple Utah horses, birds test for West Nile virus

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FILE – In this Jan. 18, 2016, file photo, a female Aedes aegypti mosquito, known to be a carrier of the Zika virus, acquires a blood meal on the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute of Sao Paulo University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A Utah man who mysteriously contracted Zika from his infected father may have got it by touching his dad’s tears or sweat with his bare hands, according to new research unveiled Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, that found the unusual transmission method was likely caused by his dying father having 100,000 times the normal level of the virus. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Multiple cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in horses, people, and birds in Utah this summer.

According to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food reports nine horses in Utah have tested positive for West Nile virus – seven in Weber County and one each in Salt Lake and Box Elder counties. At least six people and seven birds have also tested positive for the disease.

The Utah Department of Health is now reporting the highest number of positive mosquito pools ever seen in Utah at 506. That includes the 114 reported earlier this summer and the four added earlier this month in Box Elder County.

The UDAF says those with horses or other pets should consult their veterinarians about vaccines. According to Dr. Dean Taylor, Utah State Veterinarian, “Vaccines against West Nile virus and other neurologic diseases are readily available from your veterinarian. Every owner should discuss vaccinations with their veterinarian in the spring before mosquito season.”

Owners can also protect their horses by using insect repellants, fans, and screens, and eliminating stagnant water sources where mosquitoes breed.

West Nile virus, carried by mosquitoes, can cause disease in humans, birds, horses, and some other mammals. Infected horses do not spread the infection to others but they may suffer from loss of appetite, depression, fever, and neurologic signs like stumbling, circling, and weakness. UDAF says it can cause long-term neurologic problems or even deaths.

If you suspect your horse has West Nile virus, UDAF says you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

To reduce your risk of infection, UDOH recommends:

  • 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). See a list of MADs here.
  • 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 illness such as Zika or dengue and take the necessary precautions.

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