West Nile virus was first diagnosed in Uganda in 1937, but cases were not confirmed in the United States until 1999. Experts believe cases across the country have been worse this year because of the hot, dry weather, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency has said this year's numbers are the worst since outbreaks in 2002 and 2003, when more than 3,000 cases were experienced throughout the country.
As of Oct. 2, the virus had been detected in people, birds or mosquitoes in 48 states, but the CDC reports that almost 70 percent of the cases in the U.S. have been reported from eight states — Texas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, Michigan, Oklahoma and Illinois.
Utah Department of Health epidemiologist JoDee Baker said that while Utah has a low case count, it shouldn't be taken lightly.
"Both mosquitoes and weather can play a role in how large an outbreak we see," she said.
Baker said mosquito abatement districts throughout the state continue to work diligently to control the mosquito population, but they can only do so much.
The danger of infection decreases after the ground freezes, as mosquitoes cannot survive freezing temperatures.
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