(Salt Lake City, UT) – While COVID-19 has captured much of the state’s attention, 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. But according to Hannah Rettler, 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 illness such as Zika or dengue and take the necessary precautions.
Rettler adds, “It is important to remember that WNV can cause very serious illness, especially in individuals older than 50 and those who are immune compromised.”
WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. In Utah in 2019, there were 21 confirmed human cases of WNV throughout the state, including two people who passed away due to WNV infection.
A majority of people infected by this virus (70–80%) won’t notice any symptoms while some people may experience flu-like symptoms or worse. The elderly and 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 are experiencing symptoms of WNV, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.
WNV surveillance in Utah is underway and will continue into early fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit www.health.utah.gov/wnv. Throughout the WNV season, the UDOH web site will be updated each Wednesday with available detection information.