With the anticipated arrival of West Nile Virus in Utah this summer, residents and property owners need to take action now to reduce their risk of infection. Officials at Southeastern Utah District Health Department are encouraging stepped up surveillance and control efforts.
"Residents need to be vigilant about not breeding mosquitoes around their homes and properties this summer," says Health Officer, David Cunningham. "This is especially important for Southeastern Utah residents who live in areas without mosquito abatement services. The mosquitoes are breeding and increasing their populations now."
"Residents need to dump out standing water in buckets, used tires, barrel, tarps, gutters and wheelbarrows," he states. "Any item that may hold or contain water should be covered, inverted or have drainage holes. Water in animal drinking troughs should be changed frequently and not left to stand longer than five days, if possible."
The Southeastern Utah District Health Department is asking for the public's help in monitoring the spread of the virus and is asking residents to report any recently deceased birds they may find by calling the Division of Wildlife Resources toll free at (877) 592-5169.
"We are relying on the public to report any wild birds which have died of apparently mysterious causes," states Cunningham, "With the need for reporting dead birds ceasing when the West Nile Virus has been positively identified." Road killed birds need not be reported.
Birds are considered what is called "sentinals" because they are easily infected by the bites of mosquitos. The state of Utah has also set out several sentinel chicken flocks throughout the state which are having their blood tested more regularly than in years past for the virus.
Birds, horses and humans become infected with West Nile Virus through the bite of an infected mosquito. Less than one percent of people infected with the virus become seriously ill from the disease. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control reported, 5,156 human cases and 284 deaths in the United States.
Although there is no human vaccine for West Nile Virus, a vaccine is available and highly recommended for horses. The death rate of infected horses in much higher than for humans. Local veterinarians should be contacted about horse vaccinations as soon as possible since the mosquito season is beginning.
"There is little doubt that the virus will reach Utah this year," reports Cunningham. "There are only six states left where the West Nile Virus has not been found yet. Utah is one of them." The other states in are Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska.
Southeastern Utah District Health Department has several recommendations to reduce the chances of becoming ill by using the proper protection.
Apply insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin whenever you are outdoors. Children less than 12 years of age should only use DEET concentrations of 10 percent or less. DEET-containing products should never be sprayed into the face and eyes. Rather, the spray should be sprayed onto the hands and then applied to the face, avoiding the eyes.
Whenever possible, wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors.Treating clothes with repellents containing permethrin or DEET will give extra protection, since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Do not apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent containing DEET on the skin under your clothing.
The hours from dusk to dawn are the peak mosquito biting times. Consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times-or take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing during evening and early morning hours.
"We must work together as a community of neighbors and friends to ensure a healthy summer season for everyone. Don't allow standing water if possible. Keep the mosquitoes at bay. What we need this year is a mosquito drought!" concluded Cunningham.
More information about the West Nile Virus and prevention is available on the internet at www.cdc.gov