The Southeastern Utah District Health Department is responding to many inquiries about the West Nile Virus. "The West Nile Virus is a hot topic right now because of the high number of cases and fatalities," reports Terrie C. Wright, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the Southeastern Utah District Health Department.
During 2002 the West Nile Virus has been detected as far west as Wyoming and Colorado. (see map) The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported that from 1999 through 2001, there were 149 case of West Nile Virus human illness in the United States, including 18 deaths. Since January of 2002 through August 21, 2002 there have been 269 human cases confirmed and eight deaths in Louisiana, one death in Illinois, one death in Kentucky, one death in Texas and two deaths in Mississippi.
The West Nile Virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. It can infect people, horses, many types of birds, and some other animals. It is not transmitted from person to person, nor is there evidence that a person can get the virus from handling live or dead infected birds or horses.
Most people who become infected with West Nile Virus win have no symptoms. Some people develop mild symptoms that include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. On rare occasions less than one percent of infected people will result in a severe and sometimes fatal illness known as West Nile encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain).
You can reduce your chances of becoming ill from the West Nile Virus, and other mosquito transferred diseases, by protecting yourself from mosquito bites. The Southeastern Utah District Health Department recommends limiting the places available for mosquitoes to lay their eggs, eliminating standing water sources from around your home and by applying insect repellent when you are outdoors. Wearing long sleeves and long pants treated with repellent will further reduce your risk, as well as staying indoors during peak mosquito feeding hours (dusk until dawn).
The United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed through the National Veterinary Services Laboratories that from January 1, 2002 to August 19, 2002 there were 644 cases of West Nile virus reported in horses in 23 states.
There is a vaccine for horses to help protect them from the West Nile Virus. This vaccine requires two shots 3-6 weeks apart. For more information about the vaccine contact your local veterinarian.
For additional information about the West Nile Virus, contact Terrie C. Wright at 435-637-3671 or 435-381-2252. Information can also be found on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.