Although two cases of West Nile Virus have been detected among Utah residents, the Utah Department of Health said Utahns should not be afraid.
However, Tom Hudachko, a spokesman for the department, added Utahns, especially those who spend much of their time outdoors, should be aware and take appropriate precautions to prevent being infected with West Nile Virus.
The Utah State University Outdoor Program, a university program that “provides adventure and discovery to USU students” through outdoor activities, will not be changing their agenda to protect against potential West Nile Virus.
Dan Galliher, assistant director of outdoor equipment and facilities for USU Outdoor Program, said the organization is “not worried,” about catching the virus. However, Galliher said the group always encourages its participants to take preventative measures like using bug spray and wearing long clothing when weather allows.
“They should be aware that mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus virus are alive and active in Utah,” he said.
Although both cases of West Nile detected in humans were in Salt Lake County, six Cache County mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus. However, Richard Rigby, Cache County Mosquito Abatement District operations manager, said Cache Valley residents should still take preventative measures against mosquito bites.
Rigby said the best way for residents to protect against bites is to “make sure you wear long sleeve pants from dusk to dawn,” and “make sure you’re draining standing water around your home.”
Hudachko agreed, adding “another important thing for people to do is eliminate mosquito breeding areas on their property.”
The ideal areas for mosquitoes to breed, he said, are stagnant areas of water such as ponds and pools.
“Just eliminating that standing water actually makes a huge difference,” Rigby said. “A lot of people forget that gutters will harber water for mosquitoes to breed.”
While West Nile Virus can be deadly, fatality only occurs in one of 150 people infected each year, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Hudachko added “most of the time people who are infected with West Nile virus won’t even realize that they were infected.”
If people infected to experience symptoms, he said, they usually resemble symptoms of a stomach flu virus or common cold.
“In a small handful of people, they will get a more significant illness which could lead to some pretty serious complications…but those cases are pretty rare,” he said, adding that people should see a medical professional if they feel their symptoms are serious.
Besides avoiding stagnant water and wearing long, protective clothing, Hudachko said one of the best preventative measures people can take against mosquito bites is wearing mosquito repellant with diethyltoluamide, more commonly referred to as DEET, a chemical which interferes with mosquitoes instincts, thus protecting its users from bites.
According to the Utah Department of Health, West Nile Virus is most commonly transported through mosquito bites, however, it can also be transported through blood transfusion or transplant or from mother to baby.
Although those who spend more time outdoors are more likely to catch West Nile Virus, the health department advises people to continue enjoying outdoor recreation.
“Just because West Nile virus is in Utah does not mean that people should stay indoors,” the department’s website states. “You can continue to enjoy the outdoors and easily protect yourself by using mosquito repellent with DEET.”
More information can be found here.