West Nile Virus Spreads in Utah; No Human Cases Confirmed

West Nile Virus Spreads in Utah; No Human Cases Confirmed

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The mosquito-borne West Nile virus has been found in three more counties since it's original detection in Utah, but there still have been no confirmed cases of people contracting the disease in the state.

However, false-positive test results led to some patients being wrongly told that they had the disease, said Michelle Korth, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health.

Blood tests used by hospitals generally aren't as conclusive as those used by the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Korth said. The tests simply identify whether certain antibodies are present in blood.

"We're trying to get the word out to the physicians, so they know how to read the test, so they don't tell the patients they have the virus when they don't," Korth said.

Ted Fallat, 58, of Pleasant View, said was told he had the virus after one such test. He spent a week in the hospital fighting some other virus.

"I was definitely, definitely sick," Fallat said.

Some blood donors also were wrongly told they had West Nile after they donated blood.

Korth said those false-positives are due to the use of a new test being used on blood donations, which has turned out not to be very reliable.

Any time someone in Utah gets a positive reading for West Nile, no matter the type of test, the blood is always retested by the state lab.

The state lab has run 25 tests this year, and there have been no positive readings. If there had been, the person would be tested yet again by the CDC, Korth said. She said the state lab's results have been right on target with the CDC's results.

Three Utah residents were found to have the disease, but they were believed to have contracted it outside the state. All three patients are recovering, said Jana Kettering, spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Health.

On Aug. 15, state health officials first announced the presence of the virus in several Utah counties, including Emery, Carbon, Uintah and Utah. Since then, it has been discovered in Duchesne, Grand and Wayne counties.

West Nile has been found in horses, mosquitoes, sentinel chickens and a dead crow. Through Monday, the CDC had tallied 3,541 human case s and 66 deaths nationally.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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