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Dramatic rise in West Nile cases in Utah

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SALT LAKE COUNTY – State officials are tracking an alarming spike in the number of West Nile Virus infections in Utah.  However, they’re still trying to pinpoint why the increase happened.

In 2007, there were 70 reported cases of West Nile Virus.  In the years following that, the reported infections fell down, dramatically.  Utah Department of Health Epidemiologist Dallin Peterson says, “Last year, we had 13 people who were infected, with one death.  This year, we’re up to almost 50 with three deaths.”

Plus, Peterson says the mosquitoes that carry this virus moved from the rural areas into more urban ones.  He says, “For some reason, Salt Lake County was hit pretty hard with a lot of mosquitoes.”

There could be several reasons behind the increase in infections, one of them is the summer heat.  Brian Hougaard with the South Salt Lake Valley Mosquito Abatement District says, “It has to be a certain temperature before that virus starts replicating in the mosquitoes and they can transmit it.”

The mosquito season is slowly ending for this year, but, Hougaard says there are things people can do to be prepared for next year. “Get rid of any standing water, buckets and wheelbarrows.  Anything like that, that holds standing water, if they dump it out and get rid of it, they’re going to eliminate the number of mosquitoes around their house,” he says.