West Nile buzzes into Summit County
From dusk to dawn Summit County residents should be more vigilant than ever in protecting themselves from mosquitoes, health department officials say.
But mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus near the Weber River apparently haven’t given the disease to any humans in the area.
"We’re now in the West Nile business," Summit County Health Department spokeswoman Katie Mullaly said in an interview Thursday. "There is no treatment and no cure, just prevention."
Mosquitoes captured in traps in eastern Summit County Aug. 22 tested positive for West Nile, said John Jaussi, director of the Summit County Mosquito Abatement District.
"It’s very possible that people could contract it, very possible," Jaussi said. "We’ve had two deaths in Utah County."
To avoid being bitten by insects carrying the disease wear long sleeves, long pants and use insect repellant that contains DEET, he warned.
Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, the species often found infected with West Nile virus, were located in Deer Valley and the Snyderville Basin, Jaussi said, adding, "We picked up tarsalis by the Osguthorpe barn in the water and by Deer Valley in the condos."
"I think they’re less likely on Main Street than at the Swaner preserve," he said, adding that Culex tarsalis mosquitoes are often found at wetlands next to Treasure Mountain International Middle School.
About 20 percent of the people infected with West Nile virus develop a fever and flu-like symptoms, Mullaly said.
One in 150 of those people could develop a fatal neurological disease, she said, adding that vomiting, body aches, headaches and rash are possible signs of West Nile fever.
"It affects the young and the elderly," Mullaly said.
Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard says he is concerned.
"There needs to be a public statement issued to the residents of Henefer," Ovard said. "Henefer’s probably got several between 75 and 90 (years old)."
He insists those at risk should stay indoors at night.
"We could issue a statement that could go out within two days at the most," Ovard said. "We’ve got to suggest the elderly be cautious about where they go, period."
Meanwhile, homeowners should remove standing water from their property, Mullaly said.
"There are a lot of those that have big-money homes and if you have a big-money home you have to have a pond," Oakley Mayor Blake Frazier said. "That’s something that the planning department should take a look at."
Humans become infected with West Nile virus through contact with mosquitoes or birds that carry the disease, Mullaly said, adding that handling dead birds should be avoided.
According to Jaussi, West Nile virus has not been detected in birds or horses in Summit County.
He said he was told Thursday mosquitoes in the area had tested positive for the disease.
"We’re going to be spraying in those areas (near the Weber River) between 8:30 and 10 o’clock at night," Jaussi said. "But it’s a problem in Park City and it’s a problem in the Kamas Valley."
Abatement district officials currently monitor mosquitoes captured in eight light traps around the county, he said.
"We try to get them in as many different parts of the county as we can," Jaussi said. "Every two to three days I take them down to have them tested."
Blood from chickens near Echo, Coalville, Peoa, Woodland and Silver Creek is also regularly tested for West Nile virus, he said, adding that currently residents in Henefer, Echo, Coalville, Oakley and Peoa are most at risk.
"The virus is there," Jaussi said.
Summit County this week became the 16th county in Utah where West Nile virus has been found, Mullaly said.
Forty-two people in Utah had contracted the disease this week and Mullaly said two in Utah County died as a result of West Nile virus.
"Be concerned because it’s a serious disease but I’m confident in our plans for dealing with this," she said. "You’re the only one who can prevent West Nile virus and that’s by preventing yourself from getting mosquito bites."
To avoid West Nile virus health department officials advise people:
Avoid outdoor activities from dusk to dawn
Cover up with long sleeves, pants, shoes and socks when outdoors at night
Use mosquito repellents with DEET or Picaridin
Eliminate standing water and change bird baths weekly
Visit http://www.sumitcountyhealth.org for more information about West Nile virus.
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