Salt Lake County reports first fatal case of West Nile virus for 2018

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — A person has died due to West Nile virus, the Salt Lake County Health Department announced Wednesday.

According to a press release from the health department, the deceased is an individual over the age of 65 who suffered from other health concerns and was diagnosed with “neuroinvasive West Nile virus”, which is a more severe form of  the disease.

The health department says the individual died last week. Due to health privacy laws, no further details about the deceased are available.

This is the first death from West Nile virus in 2018. Last year six Utahns died from West Nile virus, two of whom were from Salt Lake County.

The health department says those over the age of 50 or those with weakened immune systems are the most at-risk, but anyone can become ill from the bite of an infected mosquito.

“There are a growing number of mosquitoes in the county carrying the disease,” said Ilene Risk, SLCoHD epidemiology bureau manager, “so it is now especially important that residents be vigilant in protecting themselves from mosquito bites, particularly in the hours from dusk to dawn.”

The health department offers these tips for minimizing the risk of exposure to West Nile Virus:

  • Use an EPA-registered mosquito repellent with DEET, permethrin, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus; follow package directions about application.
  • After dusk, wear long sleeves and pants
  • Drain standing water in yards (old tires, potted plant trays, pet dishes, toys, buckets, etc.).
  • Keep roof gutters clear of debris.
  • Clean and stock garden ponds with mosquito-eating fish or mosquito dunks.
  • Ensure door and window screens are in good condition so mosquitoes cannot get inside.
  • Keep weeds and tall grass cut short; adult mosquitoes look for these shady places to rest during the hot daylight hours.

They also provided a description of the common symptoms:

“Most people with WNV may not know they have been infected. About 20% of people infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever, a mild illness that lasts 3–6 days and is characterized by fever, headaches and body aches. Less than 1% of people infected will develop West Nile neuroinvasive disease, which can result in high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions or death. Symptoms of WNV infection usually appear within 3 to 14 days after exposure. There is no specific treatment for WNV infection other than to treat symptoms. If you think you have WNV infection, contact your health care provider.”