During last weeks teleconference that the Utah Department of Health put on concerning west Nile virus, a number of questions arose that people commonly ask about the disease, it's transmission and how to prevent it.
The most important measures that people can take, say experts are preventative ones. Even though right now Utah is one of four states in the lower 48 states that have not had a definite case of the virus, it is only a matter of time before it shows up in the state.
Because the two mosquitoes in this area that can transmit the disease are evening and dawn feeders, that is the time that people should cover up their bodies and protect themselves with mosquito repellents with DEET in them. Those two species, the Cx. pipiens and Cx. tarsalis, both attack humans at sunset and at sunrise.
"These bugs are the most potent at this time," stated Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District official Gary Hatch.
Because of this, homeowners are also urged to repair screens on their homes and to be sure doors are tight fitting that the mosquitos will not come indoors. When sleeping outside, mosquito netting should be used to protect from the disease.
While these bugs can fly a long ways, one of the best ways to protect humans at any specific residents is to make sure all standing water in the area is dumped out. That means after watering lawns or a rain storm, homeowners should check for anything that will hold water outside. That is because the mosquitos will lay their eggs in standing water and that, of course, leads to more of them.
Particular items to watch for are old tires that may have accumulated water, bird baths, poorly keep swimming pools and pet dishes with standing water in them.
Another place that mosquitos love is long grass and weeds. Any thing that will provide shade for them to rest during the long, hot daylight hours of summer is a potential problem.
Many people are also concerned about babies and their exposure.
"It's best to protect babies from the outside, particularly during the problem hours," advised department epidemiologist Dr. Robert Rolfs. "The problem we have is that there isn't much information on how this affects infants, because they are seldom exposed. People protect them. Just use a commons sense approach."
It is proven that people over 50 have a 10 times greater chance of developing severe affects from the virus than those under 19. Also, those who are 80 years and older have a 40 times greater risk than a 19 year old.
The department along with the Division of Wildlife Resources will begin working heavily in May to detect the virus in birds in the area.
Birds have proven to be not only the long distance carrier of the disease, but also a sentinel animal to detect the presence of the disease in an area.