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Be vigilant in protecting your family from mosquitoes

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (August 30) -- Public health officials across Utah are reminding all residents who will be outside this holiday weekend to protect themselves from mosquito bites. So far, three cases of West Nile virus (WNV) have been reported in Utah, and while only one of the cases was actually exposed in Utah, the danger remains.

West Nile virus has been detected in a number of mosquito pools around the state and the numbers don't appear to be declining. Utah Department of Health (UDOH) epidemiologist JoDee Baker says that as long as there are mosquitoes in the area, there's the danger of being exposed to the virus.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, but not all mosquitoes carry the virus. The mosquitoes that do carry the virus are typically out from dusk to dawn.

Fight the BiteVirus Del Nilo Occidental

"The best way to reduce your risk is to use an insect repellent with DEET when you're outside," says Baker. "Adults and children older than 2 months of age can safely use repellents that contain up to 30 percent DEET," Baker added. Repellents are not recommended for children under 2 months of age.

Other precautionary measures include wearing long pants and shirts with long sleeves while outside in the evening. Homeowners should also drain any puddles and remove all standing water around the home where mosquitoes can breed and lay eggs.

"When prevention is this simple and the disease can be so severe, it just makes sense to take precautions," says UDOH epidemiologist Melissa Stevens Dimond.

This year's West Nile virus threat is especially severe in the southern United States. As of August 28, 2012, 48 states have reported WNV infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 1,590 cases and 66 deaths have been reported to CDC. Of these, 889 (56 percent) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 701 (44 percent) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.

The 1,590 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of WNV cases reported since the virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1999. More than 70 percent of the cases have been reported from six states (Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan), with Texas reporting nearly half (45 percent) of those.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus never show symptoms. If you have symptoms, including high fever, severe headache and a stiff neck, contact your health care provider immediately. Though anyone can be infected and become ill, severe illness or death is more common in people over age 50 or in those with compromised immune systems.

West Nile virus surveillance in Utah is underway and will continue throughout the summer and fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit www.health.utah.gov/wnv.

Throughout the WNV season, the UDOH web page will be updated each Wednesday with available detection information.

Reposted with permission from the Utah Department of Health.


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