West Nile Virus Found in Utah

West Nile Virus Found in Utah

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Ed Yeates ReportingWhat the experts had been predicting has now finally happened. The West Nile virus has arrived in Utah, identified specifically near Price and in Uintah, Emery and Utah counties.

Up until now, Utah had been one of only four states which had not yet reported West Nile, but it was only a matter of time. Multiple state agencies today said chickens, horses and pools of mosquitoes - as of today - have all tested positive for West Nile.

Two horses, one in Uintah County, the other in Emery County were confirmed positive as of this morning.

State veterinarian Dr. Mike Marshall said the findings again confirm the need for all horse owners throughout the state to get their animals vaccinated. There is a vaccine that protects these animals from the virus. Without protection, one third of all infected horses will die from West Nile.

Dr. Michael Marshall, D.V.M., State Veterinarian: "One of these horses - the one near Vernal - is already dead It first started showing clinical signs last Wednesday."

In addition to the two horses, two sentinel chickens, used routinely for monitoring mosquito borne illnesses, tested positive for West Nile in a flock near Price. Also, as of this afternoon, the State Health Department confirmed the virus had been identified in pools of mosquitoes pulled from traps in Utah County.

Dr. Sam Dickson, Salt Lake County Mosquito Abatement District: "It's very important to know that the mosquitoes that transmit this disease bite all the way from dusk until dawn. The mosquitoes that are biting you during the day are not the mosquitoes that we believe will carry the disease."

So, the virus is here. Precautions are needed. But epidemiologist Gerry Dowdle says don't panic!

Gerrie Dowdle, Epidemiologist, Utah Dept of Health: "It's important to keep in mind that West Nile virus is not in every mosquito, and every individual that gets bitten by a mosquito will not get West Nile Virus."

Though our neighboring state of Colorado has been the hardest hit this season for West Nile, no human cases have been reported in Utah so far. Only the very young, the very old, or those with compromised immune systems are at risk for serious complications from West Nile. Most who get infected may not even know they've been sick, or they show very mild symptoms of the disease. In fact, only 20 percent of people who are bitten, show symptoms.

West Nile indicators tend to show up about six days after a bite. Common symptoms, if they show at all, are fever, body aches, rash and swollen lymph nodes. When it comes to the most severe cases, the neurological effects can linger for more than a year.

James Sejvar, M.D., CDC Researcher: “Movement disorders, in particular tremor, jerking of the muscles and parkinsonism, characterized by stiffness of limbs and difficulty with balance, and also flaccid paralysis, polio-like syndrome."

As a bit of perspective, our neighbor Colorado has had 299 cases of West Nile and 7 deaths. Health officials underscore prevention as the best protection. The Utah Department of Health advises everyone to be especially vigilant at dusk and dawn, when most mosquitoes are out.

Also, use repellent containing DEET and cover up with light colored, loose clothing. Remove standing water on and around your property and make sure your window screens are in good repair.

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