Doctors Ask Utahns Not to Overreact to West Nile Virus

Doctors Ask Utahns Not to Overreact to West Nile Virus

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Ed Yeates ReportingDoctors are asking Utahns not to overreact now that the West Nile virus is officially here. Until the mosquito season ends they fear too many people may think they've got the symptoms when it's really something else.

The CDC is already cautioning the public that mild cases of viral meningitis, which clinics have been treating this summer throughout the country, may be mistaken for West Nile. ER docs say because symptoms may mimic a cold or stiff neck, people may think they've been infected when they're not.

Even in a worse case scenario, when symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis are present, it will take some time to find out if it really is West Nile.

Scott Linscott Jr., M.D., U of U Critical Care Physician: “The truth is we won't know that it is West Nile for at least two to three weeks. That's because the CDC has to do the serum titers, so we would treat it no differently than any other virus.”

Also, as we've reported before, Utah mosquitoes, which bite in the day are not considered carriers of West Nile. Our own Culex tarsalis is a potential carrier, but only bites at night. Another - Culex Pipiens - may carry the virus. Unlike tarsalis, it's a shy biter, but it loves people and houses and birds living in neighborhood areas. It's the mosquito that buzzes around at night then bites after you fall asleep.

But again, while both can carry West Nile, not all do. The chances of getting really sick are very slim.

Mosquito abatement agencies will be watching the marshes in duck clubs that are getting ready for October's hunting season. Some flood the marshes, and if our frost doesn't arrive on time, warm weather could open a fall breeding ground for Culex tarsalis.

If so, abatement districts will be spraying late in the year.

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