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West Nile virus death reported in Utah among sudden rise in cases

Posted at 10:08 AM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 19:13:54-04

SALT LAKE CITY — West Nile virus cases are surging in Utah, with the state now reporting one person has died from the disease.

The Utah Department of Health says the death occurred in the Weber/Morgan Health district.

Officials added that an additional five residents were diagnosed with West Nile virus last week, bringing the state's total to 11. Among the cases, nine have been classified as the more dangerous neuroinvasive variety in which one in 10 patients die.

All 11 cases were found in Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties.

Up until late August, Utah had yet to report a single case of West Nile virus, which is transmitted through infected mosquitoes. As of Aug. 23, 506 mosquito traps, or 8% of traps in the state, tested positive for the virus, compared to .008% last year.

“West Nile virus is an annual presence in Utah and it isn’t going away,” said Hannah Rettler, an epidemiologist with UDOH. “We could see many more Utahns become ill unless residents take steps to reduce mosquito exposure.”

Health officials offer the following tips to avoiding mosquito bites:

  • Wear long-sleeves, long pants, and socks while outdoors and use an insect repellent with 20%-30% DEET, which is safe to use during pregnancy. Repellents are not recommended for children younger than two months of age.
  • The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.
  • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Remove any puddles of water or standing water including in pet dishes, flower pots, wading and swimming pools, buckets, tarps, and tires.
  • Report bodies of stagnant water to your local Mosquito Abatement District (MAD).
  • Keep doors, windows, and screens in good condition and make sure they fit tightly.
  • Consult with an immunization travel clinic before traveling to areas that may have mosquito-borne illness such as Zika or dengue and take the necessary precautions.

In addition to humans, at least nine horses have also tested positive for West Nile virus in Utah.