Southwest Utah Health Department assesses West Nile virus threat after northern Utah death

Mosquito photo by Kagemicrotank/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In the wake of  Utah’s first confirmed death from West Nile virus this year, Southern Utah health officials said there are no cases of humans or mosquitoes testing positive for the virus in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington counties. However, recent weather conditions have put the area at higher risk.

Six people died from West Nile last year in Utah. The person who died last week in northern Utah was over the age of 65 and suffered from other health concerns, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department. The individual was diagnosed with a more severe form of the mosquito-borne illness.

Although Dave Heaton, public information officer for Southwest Utah Public Health Department, told St. George News that Southern Utah is deemed safe from the virus for now, there’s potential for an increase in mosquito activity due to the area’s recent increase in rain.

“With a lot of recent rain and moisture we can see an increase in mosquito activity,” he said. “That also increases the chance of West Nile infections.”

In order to avoid encounters with possibly infected mosquitoes, Heaton said people should wear inspect repellent that has at least 30 percent DEET – the most common ingredient in bug repellents that provides protection against unwanted insects.

People should also avoid being outdoors during times where mosquitoes are most active.

“If you’re outdoors from dusk til dawn, that’s when these particular mosquitoes that carry West Nile will come and bite,” Heaton said.

He also suggested people get rid of any standing water on their property because that’s where mosquitoes often lay their eggs. Eliminating the standing water helps prevent the larvae from hatching.

Other tips to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Cover gaps, windows and doors to prevent mosquitoes from entering.
  • Keep mosquitoes away from exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
  • Replace your outdoor lights with yellow “bug” lights, which tend to attract fewer mosquitoes than ordinary lights.

For more tips on preventing mosquito bites, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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