West Nile Virus Now in 3 Utah Counties and Likely Spreading
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The West Nile Virus has arrived in northern Utah for the season, so it’s time to cover up from dusk to dawn when you’re outside.
Mosquito abatement crews confirmed the virus in mosquitoes in Box Elder, Davis and Uintah Counties this week, and it’s likely more widespread. Mosquitoes and birds, which carry the virus, can carry it many miles.
So far, Utah has no reports of cases in people.
“We now know that we’ve got West Nile Virus circulating in mosquitoes,” said Rebecca Ward, health educator, Bureau of Epidemiology, Utah Department of Health. “We know that mosquitoes are active, and those are the first ones that we’ve seen this year.”
West Nile Virus first arrived in Utah in 2006. It has resurfaced each year since. Mosquito abatement districts in each of our communities track the insects and spray for them when and where they can.
“Science drives every component of our operation,” said Ary Faraji, executive director, Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District.
He took KSL-TV to see workers Tuesday with the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District in duck clubs and marshlands on the edge of the Great Salt Lake where mosquitoes thrive.
“We want to know where the mosquitoes are and how many mosquitoes are located in those locations,” said Faraji.
Workers set dozens of traps throughout the city and marshlands, and test the insects for West Nile Virus.
“Our job is to really ensure that we are controlling as many of those mosquitoes as possible in this immense wetland habitat. So, that way, they are not going to migrate towards the city,” he said.
Wednesday morning, crews applied a bacterial insecticide on a marshland to kill the mosquitoes in the larval stage.
Last year, Utah had the highest number of West Nile cases in a decade: 62 people infected, five people killed.
People are typically infected by the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus that it picked up from an infected bird.
“We know that mosquitoes breed in water,” said Ward. “So, you want to reduce the standing water around your home, stagnant pools.”
Faraji says it’s too early to tell whether West Nile this year will be as bad as last year. Heat, humidity, and precipitation will determine mosquito activity through the rest of the summer.
“I wish we could predict what mosquito abundance or virus activity is going to be like. But, we just can’t do that.”
There are no vaccines or treatments for the virus, but, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people with the virus do not show symptoms. Only about one in 150 people who contract the virus come down with a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.
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