First case of West Nile Virus reported in Salt Lake County

Published: Monday, Aug. 25 2014 5:00 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2012 file photo, mosquitos are sorted at the Dallas County mosquito lab in Dallas. With mosquito populations increasing, health officials are warning residents to comply with prevention efforts in order to avoid the spread of the West Nile Virus.

LM Otero, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — The summer season may be nearing an end as Labor Day approaches, but the mosquito season is still in full swing.

The Salt Lake County Health Department has reported the first human case of West Nile Virus in Salt Lake County this year, a problem on the rise.

"What is a little bit worrisome this year. In the last four to five years we usually see zero to five positive mosquito pools, but this year we are seeing more," said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, medical director for health department.

In 2013, there were seven cases of mosquitos carrying the diseases, a jump up from the five positive pools and one death in 2012, the Utah Department of Health reported.

This year, health officials are encouraging Utahns to help Utah's mosquito abatement districts by taking matters into their own hands.

"The burden is on the public because prevention is a huge part of that control," Vitek said.

Mosquito abatement crews have been working all summer to control the population, but with all the August rain, mosquitos have had ideal weather to multiply.

"I think we’ve done a pretty good job this year, but there are still millions if not billions of mosquitos out on the marsh," said Sammie Dickson, manager of the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District.

Most of the mosquitos the wet, warm weather has produced are what Dickson calls nuisance or flood-water mosquitos that bite during the day but can not transmit the disease.

However, he wanted to make it clear that the virus is in the valley and that people should still be concerned.

"The virus is here and this is the time that the mosquito abatement has been working all year long for," Dickson said. "Mosquitos have spread through the city and people need to take some personal protection."

Although only 20 percent of people who are bitten develop West Nile Fever, there is no treatment available. As a result, the virus has taken the lives of eight people across the country, Dickson said.

"No one wants to get West Nile Virus. It can be a moderate to very severe disease," he said. "I think people don’t need to be necessarily concerned, but they need to take the right precautions."

In an effort to control mosquito populations and avoid the West Nile Virus from spreading, Utahns should keep in mind the following recommendations from the health department:

• Avoid going out at dawn and dusk, the most common time for mosquitos that can transmit the disease to bite.

• Use mosquito repellents that contain DEET or picaridin.

• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors.

• Drain any standing water in neighborhoods to avoid mosquito multiplication.

Email: mcollette@deseretnews.com

Twitter: MirandaCollette

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