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SLCoHD Reports First Human WNV Case of the Year

Aug 16, 2016 09:01AM ● By Bryan Scott

Photo from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Press Release submitted to City Journals

SALT LAKE COUNTY—The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) has announced the first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) in the county and in Utah this year. The infected individual was diagnosed with neuroinvasive West Nile virus, a more severe form of the disease, and remains hospitalized.  

Health officials say this is a reminder that the mosquito-spread disease that Utahns should worry about more than Zika is WNV. In the decade since WNV has been circulating in Utah there have been 349 people known to be infected, 9 of whom died.

WNV can cause mild to severe illness and many people may not even know they have been infected. It is estimated that less than 1% of people infected with WNV will develop neuroinvasive disease, which can result in debilitating long-term complications or death. Symptoms of WNV infection appear within 3 to 14 days and include fever, headache and body aches. More severe infections may include high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors and muscle weakness or convulsions. 

People over age 50 and people with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk of illness due to WNV, but anyone can become ill from the bite of an infected mosquito.

There is no specific treatment for WNV infection other than to treat symptoms. If you think you have WNV infection, contact your health care provider.

“With much of the attention on Zika, it is important to remember the more prevalent threat of West Nile virus (WNV) in Utah,” explained Dr. Dagmar Vitek, SLCoHD medical director. “The mosquitoes that transmit Zika do not currently live in Utah, but two mosquito species that carry and transmit WNV do.”

Although few mosquitoes actually carry the virus, it is important to minimize your exposure during mosquito season:

·         Use mosquito repellents that contain DEET or picaridin when outdoors from dusk to dawn.

·         Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors.

·         Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.

·         Drain standing water around your house to reduce the number of mosquitoes (old tires, buckets, wading pools, etc.).

Dr. Vitek will be available for interviews today, August 16, at 11:00 a.m. at Salt Lake County Government Center, Suite S2-600 (south building, second floor), 2001 South State Street.