Mosquitoes carrying West Nile detected in Utah County

Officials urge precautions as Utah County joins five other areas across Utah that have detected mosquitoes infected with the potentially lethal virus.

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2016, file photo, a female Aedes aegypti mosquito acquires a blood meal on the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is behind the large outbreaks of Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean. On Friday, July 29, 2016, Florida said four Zika infections in the Miami area are likely the first caused by mosquito bites in the continental U.S. All previous U.S. cases have been linked to outbreak countries. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus were found in Utah County during the last week of July, county health officials confirmed Wednesday, for a total of six counties in Utah where the virus has been detected.

The potentially fatal virus was discovered in mosquitoes in a sampling in the Ironton area, south of Provo, said Dan Miller, director of the county’s mosquito abatement district. And officials have tailored their abatement strategies accordingly, he said.

“The goal is never to eradicate all mosquitoes because that is not possible,” he said. “The goal is to set a buffer between the mosquitoes habitat and keep them from coming up into populated areas.”

Although infected insects were last detected in Utah County in 2014, state Department of Health records show that Utah County had one of the 13 human cases of West Nile in the state in 2016.

Overall, Utah County’s mosquito population counts are higher than previous years, which Miller attributes to the persistently high temperatures during July. And mosquitoes need about three weeks of above-90 degree weather for the virus to incubate, he noted.

County mosquito-abatement officials first detected the virus’ spread this year in insects trapped in Draper and Naples in Uintah County in late June. West Nile Virus quickly spread countywide in Salt Lake and more mosquitoes carrying the virus have been found in Box Elder, Tooele, Duchesne and Davis counties.

Officials throughout the affected counties are asking residents to take precautions to prevent exposure, including wearing long sleeves, pants and insect repellent in the dusk to dawn hours; and eliminating pools of standing water where transmitting mosquitoes might breed.

“While Utah County does not currently have any confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus, this is a great reminder to residents of the importance of taking steps to protect themselves from mosquitoes,”  said Eric Edwards, deputy director the Utah County Health Department.

  • Protect against West Nile virus:

  • Avoid outdoor activities, such as gardening, at dusk through dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

  • If outside at night, cover up by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes and socks.

  • Use mosquito repellents with DEET. Follow product directions for children and for frequency of application.

  • Eliminate standing water in tires or similar water-holding containers as these may serve as mosquito breeding sites. Change the water in birdbaths at least weekly.

Of the 13 cases of West Nile reported in Utah last year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that only one resulted in death. About 2,000 cases of West Nile were reported nationwide in 2016, according to the CDC.

One in five people who contract West Nile develop symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea and rash, the CDC says. Most people recover quickly, but about one percent of those infected develop severe neurological illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis that can result in death.

No animal or human cases of the virus have been detected so far this year.