West Nile virus infects at least 11 Utahns and one person dies

No information has been released about the person who died.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File) One Utahn has died and at least 11 others have been infected with the West Nile virus.

The West Nile virus has killed one Utahn and infected at least 11 this summer, according to the Utah Department of Health (UDOH).

The death occurred in the Weber/Morgan health district, and no information about the victim has been released.

According to UDOH, at least 11 residents of Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties have been diagnosed with West Nile virus, which is transmitted through mosquito bites. While most people who contract the virus do not develop symptoms, about 1 in 150 develop a severe illness that affects the central nervous system. Among those who develop the neuroinvasive form of the disease, about 1 in 10 dies.

Nine of the 11 Utahns who have been diagnosed with West Nile virus have the neuroinvasive version. Five more people are awaiting confirmation of a West Nile diagnosis. Symptoms of the severe form of the virus include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, disorientation and confusion.

“West Nile virus is an annual presence in Utah and it isn’t going away,” said Hannah Rettler, UDOH vector-borne and zoonotic epidemiologist.

She said Utah is seeing West Nile in mosquitoes trapped across the state. As of Aug. 23, 8% of the traps (506 out of 5,906) had mosquitoes that tested positive, matching the highest percentage since the state began monitoring West Nile. That number was also 8% in 2017, when 62 Utahns tested positive for the virus. In 2020, just 0.008% of mosquitoes trapped carried West Nile, and there were only two human cases.

In addition to the human cases, nine horses, two crows, two chickens, one magpie, one scrub jay and one red-tailed hawk have also tested positive in Utah.

“We could see many more Utahns become ill unless residents take steps to reduce mosquito exposure,” Rettler said.

UDOH recommends:

  • Wearing long-sleeves, long pants, and socks while outdoors and using an insect repellent with 20%-30% DEET.

  • Avoiding outdoor activities from dusk to dawn – peak biting times for mosquitoes.

  • Removing any puddles of water or standing water anywhere mosquitoes can lay their eggs, including pet dishes, flowerpots, wading and swimming pools, buckets, tarps and tires.

  • Reporting bodies of stagnant water to your local Mosquito Abatement District. Visit http://www.umaa.org/ for a list of MADs.

  • Keeping doors, windows and screens in good condition and making sure they fit tightly.

  • Consulting with an immunization travel clinic before traveling to areas that may have mosquito-borne illnesses.