For the second year in a row, special funds to combat West Nile virus are being given by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
The UDAF announced in early April that $329,000 in special grants is available to counties and mosquito abatement districts for the prevention of West Nile virus in 2005. This is the second year that the Utah legislation has set aside funds for counties and abatement districts to expand their West Nile virus prevention.
The funds will be awarded on a matching basis, counties and districts that are to be given funds by the program will contribute matching funds. This will help to expand the amount of funds available to be used for the creation or expansion of existing mosquito control districts.
This year, the UDAF along with select representatives from the Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement District and the Utah Department of Health reviewed numerous applications for funds and identified 18 entities that qualified for funding.
Of the 18 counties that have received grants for the prevention of the spread of West Nile virus, Carbon County received $10,000 and Emery County received $9,000 of the nearly $300,000 available for distribution.
The funds are expected to be distributed in the next couple of weeks, with mosquito control work to begin soon after. The counties and districts also are to receive technical advice on how best to control the mosquito population.
Last year, 18 grants were awarded to districts and counties, including Carbon County, ranging from $5,000 to $91,000 out of the $500,000 granted for the effort.
The program is especially important this year due to the unprecedented amount of moisture most areas in Utah have received. The Utah Department of Health has warned that the increase in moisture could create additional habitat for mosquitoes to breed. Combined with biological and climate factors, the increased moisture may lead to increased occurrence of West Nile virus. The UDOH has advised all residents to drain all standing water on property to help eliminate breeding areas for mosquitoes.
Many residents of Utah do not realize the possibility of West Nile infection in the area, but in 2003, Carbon County was one of the first counties in Utah where West Nile was detected.
Last year in Utah, approximately 181 mosquito pools out of 3,500 tested positive for West Nile virus, along with five out of 70 domestic horses. Additionally, 36 small flocks of chickens with approximately ten chickens per flock were positioned across the state and were tested for the virus. 32 chickens tested positive. Two chickens from Emery County tested positive for the virus.
The UDAF advises that self protection is the best way to prevent contraction of the virus. The use of mosquito repellents during outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, the prime feeding time of mosquitoes, is said to be the best defense for being bitten by West Nile infected mosquitoes. Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants whenever possible is also advised.
West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne virus, can infect humans, birds, horses and other mammals.
Most people who are infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms or only experience a mild to moderate illness. Some symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue, or body aches before fully recovering. Some persons may also develop a rash or swollen lymph glands.
In some individuals, particularly persons 50 years of age and older, West Nile virus can cause serious disease that affects the brain and spinal tissue. Severe illness may include encephalitis, an inflamation of the brain, meningitis, an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord, or acute flaccid paralysis, which is a polio-like condition in which muscles become very weak or paralyzed.
More severe symptioms may include headache, high fever, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and/or paralysis. West Nile virus can cause permanent neurological damage and death if very serious. Among those people who need to be hospitalized for West Nile virus, 10 to 15 percent die of their illness. The incubation of the virus can be from 3 to 15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito.
The UDAF is also strongly advising owners of horses throughout the county and the state to protect their animals by vaccinating them for the West Nile Virus as early as possible.
If vaccinated last year with the recommended number of shots, a single booster shot will be sufficient this year. If an animal has not been vaccinated yet, the UDAF recommends having horses receive a series of two shots administered three to six weeks apart. Vaccines can be obtained by most local veterinarians.
Animals can also be protected by applying approved repellents to animals and by keeping them in the barn or other enclosed areas from dusk until dawn, which is the prime feeding time for mosquitoes. If enclosed during these times, animals will not be susceptible to large amounts of mosquitoes.
Additional information about West Nile virus for Carbon County residents can be obtained by calling the Southeastern Utah Health District at 637-3671.