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SL Co reports first West Nile death of 2018

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Health Department confirms one person has died from West Nile virus, the first to die from the mosquito-borne illness in the area in 2018.

Because of privacy laws, health officials could not say much about the person who died except that he or she was over the age of 65 and had underlying medical conditions. The health department says the victim passed away last week after being diagnosed with “neuroinvasive” West Nile, which is a more severe form of the virus.

Health officials say so far, mosquito monitors have found West Nile virus in 30 “mosquito pools,” or individual groups of mosquitos tested from a single trap, around Salt Lake County.

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

Only some mosquitoes carry the virus but you can’t tell visually which ones are virulent and which are virus free. Therefore, the health department recommends taking the following steps to minimize your risk:

  • 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.*

More severe forms of West Nile virus are relatively rare, with symptoms appearing within 3 to 14 days after exposure to an infected mosquito.

For most people, a West Nile infection would go undetected. About one in five go on to develop Wild Nile fever, which mimics cold or flu symptoms. Fewer than 1% of people infected with the virus go on to develop West Nile neuroinvasive disease, as the Salt Lake County patient did. Those symptoms can include high fever, stiffness of neck, and even coma.

The health department says people over the age of 50 or those whose immune systems are compromised because of other conditions are at the highest risk, although anyone can get West Nile virus.

*Source: Salt Lake County Health Department