West Nile Virus warning signs observed in 3 Utah counties, officials urge caution

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SALT LAKE CITY – West Nile Virus is back in Utah, and officials said there are no reported human cases and they intend to make sure it stays that way.

Officials with the Utah Department of Health are keeping a close eye on three counties in Utah where mosquitoes infected with the virus have been observed: Kane, Uintah and Box Elder counties.

Rebecca Ward, a health educator with Utah Department of Health, said everyone should take steps to reduce their chances of encountering the virus.

"Make sure that you don't have standing water, such as in bird baths, or small swimming pools, or even larger swimming pools,” she said. “We know that water helps breed mosquitoes."

Public health officials said they want to clear up misconceptions about the virus. They said if someone is bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, there is a one in 150 chance of catching West Nile. Officials also said that not all mosquitoes are dangerous.

"People think that any mosquito can carry West Nile Virus, and that isn't true,” Ward said. “There are particular types of mosquitoes that can carry it, and most of the time, the mosquitoes that are out during the daytime are just nuisance mosquitoes."

Workers with mosquito abatement programs said the most dangerous mosquitoes are those that are active at night, and they said people should take steps to protect their skin.

“Wear their bug repellant,” said Jessica Hunt, who is a mosquito abatement worker with Salt Lake City. “Wear the stuff that says “DEET.’”

Officials said the warning signs of the virus are only present in those three counties, but they encouraged all Utahns to take precautions.