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1st Utahn diagnosed with West Nile fever

By Natalie Crofts, | Posted - Aug 25th, 2014 @ 7:39pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY — The first human case of West Nile virus in Utah for 2014 was announced by the Salt Lake County Health Department Monday.

The person was determined to have West Nile fever, according to officials. They said it is a less severe form of the virus spread by infected mosquitoes.

The announcement comes after the Utah County Health Department reported on Aug. 11 that West Nile virus had been detected in mosquitoes near Springville and Orem. Infected mosquitoes have been identified in at least seven counties in Utah, according to officials.

Officials warned residents to continue protecting themselves from mosquito bites.

“Labor Day may signal the symbolic end of summer, but it isn’t the end of the WNV season,” said Salt Lake County Health Department medical officer Dagmar Vitek in a statement. “Until we see the first hard frost, mosquitoes will still be active and biting, and people should continue to practice prevention behaviors until then.”

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Exposure to mosquitoes can be limited by using repellents that contain DEET or picaridin, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, keeping screen doors and windows in good condition and draining standing water, according to the health department.

One out of every five people infected with WNV by a mosquito will develop symptoms, which can include a fever, headache and body aches, according to the CDC. Serious cases can lead to lifelong disability or death.

The people who are most vulnerable to WNV typically have a weakened immune system or are over the age of 50, according to the health department. However, they said anyone who is bitten can become sick.

Those who think they have a WNV infection should contact their doctor, officials said. At least one person has been diagnosed with WNV every year since the virus arrived in Utah in 2003.

Five Utahns over the age of 65 died from WNV in 2006, when 158 people statewide were infected. Mosquito abatement teams across the state have been working to contain the virus.

Contributing: Wendy Leonard

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