Watch for West Nile Virus Begins

Watch for West Nile Virus Begins

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Sam Penrod ReportingA warning today from health officials. Mosquito season is almost here and so is the likelihood of a huge increase in the cases of West Nile Virus.

It's in marshy areas around Utah Lake where mosquitoes are beginning to hatch. But plans are already in the works to spray mosquito areas like this, and to monitor all over Utah where West Nile is found.

A flock of chickens is headed to Washington County where they will be the watchdogs for West Nile Virus.

Mike Oldham, Washington County Mosquito Abatement: “We have four different locations in Washington County in which we put the chickens. And then we draw the blood from them once a week, and sent it into the lab for testing.”

Using chickens does not seem to be that high tech of a monitoring system, but those who fight mosquitoes have used chickens for years.

Dr. Joseph Miner, Executive Director, Utah County Health Dept.: "It's a very important part of monitoring, the diseases in your community spread by mosquitoes, it helps us to know where we need to increase efforts to control mosquitoes and in what location we need more attention."

Health officials are predicting this to be the worst year ever for outbreaks of West Nile Virus, after neighboring states experienced widespread West Nile cases. Because of such a wet year, it will only give mosquitoes more areas to reproduce and spread illness.

Mike Oldham: "With all the water and the flooding we've had this spring I expect a large quantity of mosquitoes."

West Nile can be life threatening, especially in the elderly. That's why there are awareness campaigns to get people to cover up in the evenings and to use mosquito repellent with DEET. And people can do a lot to fight mosquito problems in their own yards.

Dr. Joseph Miner: "It is very easy for irrigation water, rain water to collect on tarps or in empty cans or containers or old tires, those are excellent breeding sites for mosquitoes to grow in back yards."

Health officials say most people, about 80 percent who are bitten by a mosquito, which is infected with West Nile virus, will have no symptoms. However, if you develop high fever, body aches and a rash, you should see a doctor right away.

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