Agriculture officials say more than 500 mosquito pools have been found to carry the West Nile virus this year — the “highest number of positive mosquito pools ever seen in Utah.” (Shutterstock)
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah officials say at least six people and more than a dozen animals in the state have tested positive for the West Nile virus this year while abate teams across the state report a record number of mosquito pools that possess the virus.
The Utah Department of Health’s latest report, updated through the week ending on Aug. 28, indicated 506 of the more than 5,000 mosquito pools analyzed this year have come back with mosquitos containing the virus.
More than half — 281 in total — of the pools have been located within Davis County while another 192 mosquito pools have been found within Salt Lake County.
The virus has also been indicated in mosquito pools within Box Elder, Cache, Summit, Tooele and Weber counties. Officials with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food added in a West Nile virus update Tuesday that it’s the “highest number of positive mosquito pools ever seen in Utah.”
The six confirmed human cases of the virus reported in Utah so far happened in Davis and Salt Lake counties, according to the state health department. All six individuals who tested positive are listed as 40 or older and four of the cases are listed as “neuro-invasive.” None of the cases this year are listed as fatal.
Officials with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food said Tuesday that they’ve confirmed the virus in nine horses and seven birds. Seven of the horses that tested positive for the West Nile virus were in Weber County, while one horse in Box Elder County and another in Salt Lake County also tested positive.
The virus is most often spread by mosquito bites. The disease can cause severe illness or even death in humans as well as other mammals like horses.
Most people don’t notice any symptoms while other humans may feel flu-like symptoms or worse, according to the state health department.
Signs of West Nile virus in horses include loss of appetite, depression, fever, and neurologic signs like stumbling, circling and weakness, according to state agriculture officials. Given the record number of mosquito pools found to be carrying the virus, Dr. Dean Taylor, the Utah State veterinarian, urged horse owners to vaccinate their horses against the threat of the West Nile virus.
“Vaccines against West Nile virus and other neurologic diseases are readily available from your veterinarian,” he said in a statement. “Every owner should discuss vaccinations with their veterinarian in the spring before mosquito season.”
The West Nile virus isn’t just an issue in Utah. The state health department report noted that 96 human cases of the virus have been reported in 23 other states this year. They’ve resulted in six deaths.
There are ways for people to prevent getting infected. The health department recommends the following:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks while outdoors.
- Use insect repellent with 20% to 30% DEET. Repellents aren’t recommended for children younger than 2 months old.
- Reschedule outdoor activities to avoid the peak time for mosquitos, which are from dusk to dawn.
- Remove puddles of water or standing water that may be in pet dishes, flower pots, buckets, tarps, tires or wading/swimming pools. This is because mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water.
- Report bodies of stagnant water to your local mosquito abatement district.
- Make sure all doors, windows and screens are in good condition and fit tightly so mosquitos can’t fly inside a home.
More tips and information about the virus can be found here.