Adult hospitalized with Salt Lake County’s first diagnosed case of West Nile virus


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SALT LAKE CITY β€” The Salt Lake County Health Department reported its first case of West Nile virus on Friday β€” the fourth Utahn with West Nile virus this year.

Officials said the adult was diagnosed with neuroinvasive West Nile virus and is currently hospitalized.

It is estimated that less than 1% of people with West Nile virus develop neuroinvasive disease, where the illness impacts brain function.

“There are a growing number of mosquitoes carrying the disease … so it is now especially important that people protect themselves from mosquito bites, particularly in the hours from dusk to dawn,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director at the Salt Lake County Health Department.

A statement from the county recommends minimizing exposure to mosquitos, and being cautious until the first hard freeze of the year. It suggests using mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, draining standing water in yards, clearing debris from roof gutters, cleaning garden ponds, keeping doors and screens in good condition and keeping weeds and tall grasses short.

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services provides a weekly update of West Nile virus cases. On Sept. 9 it reported there have been two cases in the TriCounty health district and one case in the Weber-Morgan health district.

The report also said seven horses have tested positive for West Nile virus this year, including two in Duchesne and Utah counties and one in Garfield, Rich and Weber counties. One bird has also tested positive for West Nile virus this year, a sage grouse in Wasatch County.

In 2022, there were a total of five human West Nile virus cases, and in 2021, there were 28 cases and three people died.

In 2021, nearly 7% of the pools tested were positive for West Nile virus, and this year, just over 2% of pools tested have been positive for West Nile virus, according to Utah Department of Health and Human Services reports.

Salt Lake County Health Department reported the virus has been detected in 77 mosquito pools in the county. Although only some of the mosquitos carry the virus, the county said there is no way for people to tell whether a mosquito is capable of spreading disease.

The health department said 20% to 30% of people with the virus will have symptoms and many of those symptoms are minor, so it is likely there are cases of West Nile virus that have not been reported.

Symptoms of the severe form of West Nile virus include high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, disorientation and confusion.

The state health department encourages people with symptoms to contact a health care provider immediately. Individuals over age 50, or who have weaker immune systems, are at a higher risk for severe disease.

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Emily Ashcraft joined as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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