Utah sees first West Nile virus death of 2012 season

Season will end with first hard freeze, but using mosquito protection urged.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An older resident of Box Elder County has died from West Nile virus, the first death in a season that has seen few infections in the state.

The Bear River Health Department and the Utah Department of Health announced the death Tuesday. The name of the man, who was over age 65 and died while hospitalized, was not released.

"He was immuno-compromised and had a lot of health problems," said state epidemiologist JoDee Baker.

Officials say the fatality is a reminder of the seriousness of West Nile virus. "Although we are late into the year, we know West Nile virus is present in Box Elder County and we encourage citizens to protect themselves until the first hard freeze," said Lloyd Berentzen, executive director of the Bear River Health Department, in a statement.

The virus is carried by mosquitoes. Health officials suggest wearing long sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors, especially from dusk through dawn, using insect repellent with DEET, and removing standing water where mosquitoes may breed.

Mosquitoes in sunny, southern Utah are still testing positive for the virus, Baker said. "In northern parts of the state the numbers have been going down for quite a few weeks."

Even so, Box Elder County has been a hot spot, accounting for two human cases of the virus this season. Statewide, health officials confirmed four cases, including the death announced Tuesday.

The virus has been widespread nationally. Colorado has reported 106 cases and three deaths. The state hardest hit has been Texas, with 1,438 reported cases and 54 deaths.