First human case of West Nile virus for 2022 confirmed in Utah

Sep 2, 2022, 9:01 AM
File image of a mosquito....
File image of a mosquito.

SALT LAKE CITY — Public health officials have confirmed the first positive human case of West Nile virus in the state this year.

The person is a male resident of the Weber-Morgan Health District, between the ages of 65 and 84. He is currently hospitalized with neuroinvasive West Nile virus.

Health officials said the virus was detected in mosquitoes in the Weber-Morgan Health District about a month ago.

As of Thursday, 73 positive mosquito pools have been identified across the state in Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, and Uintah counties, as well as two positive horses in Uintah County.

In 2021, there were 28 reported human cases of West Nile virus in Utah, including three deaths.

“Mosquito season isn’t over and Utahns should continue to protect themselves from mosquito bites,” said Hannah Rettler, vector-borne/zoonotic epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). “Many more Utahns could become ill with West Nile virus if they don’t take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

Health officials said two additional suspect human cases are currently under investigation in Weber and Uintah counties.

Tips for reducing your risk of mosquito bites

  • Use insect repellent when you go outdoors. Repellents containing 20% to 30% DEET are recommended and safe to use during pregnancy. For more information about insect repellents, visit the EPA information page. Always follow label directions.
  • Limit outdoor activities from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks in areas where mosquitoes are active. Spray clothes with insect repellent for extra protection.

Tips for reducing mosquitoes around your home

  • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water so eliminate pools of water as much as possible. Empty water from pet dishes, flower pots, wading pools, backyard ponds, buckets, tarps, tires, and puddles at least once a week.
  • 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.

Rettler said most people infected with West Nile virus don’t have symptoms. About 20% of infected people will have flu-like symptoms, while fewer than 1% develop a serious, potentially deadly illness.

Utahns age 60 and older and those with certain medical conditions are at greater risk of serious illness, according to the DHHS. Public health officials said Utahns who develop symptoms of West Nile virus, including high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, disorientation and confusion, should see a health care provider.

Acording to the DHHS, an average of 25 human cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed each year since surveillance started in 2003.

For more information about West Nile virus, call your local health department or visit https://epi.health.utah.gov/west-nile-virus/.

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First human case of West Nile virus for 2022 confirmed in Utah