Human case of West Nile virus reported in Washington County

Posted at 11:20 AM, Aug 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-21 21:21:21-04

ST. GEORGE – West Nile Virus has made its annual transition from mosquito to human.

Utah Department of Health officials said they’ve received confirmation of a positive case of West Nile Virus in Washington County.

So far this year, most of the activity involving West Nile Virus has been centered here in Southwestern Utah. That doesn’t mean it’s not present throughout the state.

“It just kind of reinforces that West Nile Virus is an endemic illness,” said Dave Heaton, who is the Southwest Utah Public Health Department public information officer. “Or a disease part of our environment here.”

The Southwest Mosquito Abatement District, along with the health department, tracks West Nile cases year round. The virus showed up earlier than expected, the peak season is July through September.

“This year we had one positive at the end of May,” said Mario Boisvert, Southwest Mosquito Abatement & Control District manager. “And it’s been consistent since then. We’ve had positives every week.”

There has also been report of a positive horse case. But while there is a vaccine for horses, for humans the only prevention is being cautious.

Health department officials said tips to avoid getting bit include using repellent with DEET when outdoors; wearing long sleeves and pants, especially at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active; removing standing water where mosquitoes can breed; and vaccinating animals.

“Up to 80 percent of us who are bitten and become infected never know it,” Heaton said. “And that’s a good thing. 20 percent though will have symptoms, and a lot of those are flu-like symptoms. If you have those symptoms you want to consult your health care provider as soon as possible.”

West Nile Virus can be deadly in some cases. The Washington County person who contracted the disease was hospitalized for a brief time, but is expected to fully recover.

For more information on West Nile Virus, visit the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s website.