So far, Summit County eludes West Nile
Cover up during that nighttime bike ride and when fishing or barbecuing at dusk in Summit County wear long sleeves, pants and DEET repellent, because mosquitoes most likely to spread West Nile Virus have lived in the area for decades, officials say.
But while two new cases of the disease were reported this week in neighboring Salt Lake County, West Nile Virus has still not been discovered in Summit County.
With formation of the Summit Mosquito Abatement District in 2004, spraying for the pests started countywide.
The area escaped outbreaks of the virus the past three years, but publicity about the disease prompted more spraying locally and the Summit County Commission raised property taxes a few dollars to fund expanded efforts to kill mosquitoes where they’re born in the water.
"There are two things: one is mosquito abatement and one is making sure people are aware," said Steve Jenkins, director of the Summit County Health Department.
Mosquitoes known as culex tarsalis carry West Nile in Utah and this species is found in Summit County "every year," he added.
"We haven’t had any positive mosquito pools even though West Nile has been found in 13 of 29 counties (in Utah)," Jenkins said. "We’re still concerned because they’re eventually going to get here."
Homeowners are encouraged to check their properties for standing water, perhaps left behind by rain. Pools can also be breeding grounds for mosquitoes, abatement officials say.
The county monitors mosquito traps and if populations of the insects increase in an area, spraying could occur from airplanes.
The mosquitoes were found last year in Silver Creek and near Old Ranch Road.
Since West Nile Virus is spread mostly between dusk and dawn, Jenkins recommends covering up at night and spraying your skin with DEET repellent.
"There have been 12 human West Nile cases (in Utah in 2006)," Jenkins said. "It’s been around us for the last three years and we’ve been pretty lucky."
Eight of those infected this year in the state live in Utah County, he said, adding that one person in Tooele County and one person in Davis County have also caught West Nile Virus.
The disease originates in birds but is spread to humans by mosquitoes that bite infected animals. County officials have also monitored chicken flocks for the disease in North Summit, South Summit and western Summit County.
Those infected may not show symptoms for two weeks and people over 50 years old are at higher risk of catching the disease. According to the Utah Department of Health, about 20 percent of those who contract the virus will show fever symptoms and statistics show that one in 150 of those people could develop a neurological disease like meningitis or encephalitis. Health officials say that 10 percent of those who develop a brain disease could die, or one in every 1,000 of those infected with the virus overall.
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