West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes in one of Utah's southernmost counties, the first observation of the virus in the state this year.
There have been no human cases in Washington County, or elsewhere in Utah, and most people infected by the virus won't experience symptoms, said Lisa Starr, a surveillance nurse for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. "But anyone who is bitten by an infected mosquito can get the disease."
And people over the age of 50 or with poor immune systems are more prone to becoming severely ill, she said. "That's why prevention is key."
Symptoms of West Nile virus can include sudden fever, fatigue, aches and pains, headache and rash. "You should seek medical attention if there is sudden onset of fever or you experience neck stiffness, disorientation, or paralysis," said Starr.
State epidemiologist JoDee Baker said it's a little early for detection of the virus, but it's not unusual for it to first surface in warmer, southern regions. What that bodes for this year's West Nile season is hard to say, she said. "You can predict mosquito counts, but can't predict disease transmission."
Utah County has seen a marked increase in mosquitoes that can potentially carry West Nile.
"Mosquito Abatement staff is stepping up prevention treatment, including ground and vehicle spraying for adult mosquitoes," said Utah County Health Department spokesman Lance Madigan.
Residents are advised to protect themselves by wearing repellent containing DEET when outdoors, especially at dawn and dusk when West Nile-carrying mosquitoes are most active.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.
• Avoid mosquito-infested areas.
• Empty any standing water on your property.
• Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure.