A Uintah Basin-area man has been infected with West Nile virus, the first lab-confirmed human case in Utah this season, according to Joseph Shaffer, director of the TriCounty Health Department, which serves Daggett, Duchesne and Uintah counties.

The man is between the age of 20 and 40. Shaffer said Tuesday that it's believed he was infected in the area, although the virus had not yet been detected this season in TriCounty mosquito pools or sentinel chickens, which are usually part of the early warning system.

"The message is it's time for people to take precautions to avoid being infected. West Nile is here" and there are prevention steps people can take, said Shaffer.

The virus has also been detected in Kane, Salt Lake and Washington counties, according to the Utah Department of Health. State data is updated weekly.

The virus is carried by infected mosquitoes that are active and bite from dusk to dawn. Most people who are infected with the virus will show no symptoms or will have signs of usually mild flu. But a small percentage of people who are infected will develop severe, even deadly neurological symptoms. Severe reaction is most common among people who are elderly or the very young, as well as those with compromised immune systems or those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes.

The most effective treatment is not being bitten in the first place, health experts say. They recommend wearing long sleeves and pants when you're outside dusk to dawn and using a mosquito repellents that contain DEET, paying attention to the label. Adults can use repellents with up to 35 percent DEET, while children 2 months to 12 years can use up to 10 percent DEET. It should not be put on children's hands or feet. DEET should not be used on children under 2 months old.

They also counsel keeping grass mowed and getting rid of standing water near homes. And horses, which are especially susceptible to serious illness, should be vaccinated against infection.

More information is online at health.utah.gov/epi.


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