SALT LAKE CITY - The Salt Lake County Health Department confirmed the first human case of West Nile Virus in Utah Monday.
Recent testing showed an increased number of infected insects; experts said it was just a matter of time before someone was bitten by a virus-carrying mosquito.
“There is no treatment, no vaccine," Dr. Dagmar Vitek said, Medical Director for Salt Lake County Health Department. "We would love to have a vaccine and give it to everybody and everybody would be safe. It's very important that actually people take action because prevention is the only step.”
West Nile Virus first appeared in Utah in 2003.
The worst year so far has been 2006 when more than 100 people got sick.
This year the threat was low until mid-August when heavy rains and warm temperatures enabled the mosquitoes to breed.
“About three weeks ago in Salt Lake County we started seeing West Nile Virus in our mosquitoes,” Sam Dickson said, Manager of Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District. “Since then, every week since we've gotten more and more samples that have been positive to West Nile Virus.”
Only a small number of people develop the neuroinvasive disease that can lead to serious illness and death.
The majority of people bitten by a mosquito carrying the West Nile Virus don't experience symptoms.
About 20 percent of people develop what's called West Nile Fever, which is the case for the patient in Salt Lake County.
“You get fever, muscles aches, headaches, you have diarrhea and vomiting, you can have rash, that lasts a few weeks and then you start feeling better,” Dr. Vitek said.
Two types of mosquitoes carry the disease: one type lives in the marshes far away from people but the other is a city-dwelling mosquito you could find in your own backyard.
“The city mosquito and the marsh mosquito are very unique in that they don't bite during the daytime," Dickson said. "They only bite from dusk until dawn, so people really don't have to worry about getting bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes in the daytime."
The peak season for mosquitoes is from now through September.
Best ways to avoid the West Nile Virus:
· Use mosquito repellents that contain DEET or picaridin when outdoors from dusk to dawn
· Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors
· Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry
· Draining standing water around your house to reduce the number of mosquitoes (old tires, buckets, wading pools, etc.)