Two human cases of West Nile virus found in Salt Lake County, health officials say

With the first human cases of the summer confirmed, state Department of Health are urging residents to protect against mosquito contact

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Two human cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in Salt Lake County, health officials said Wednesday.

The two cases were confirmed over the weekend, a county health department spokesman said. And with the potentially fatal virus’ transmission to humans and the number of mosquitoes carrying West Nile growing across the state, officials with the state and county Departments of Health are urging residents to take protective measures against mosquito bites.

Mid- to late August is typically when Salt Lake County sees its first human cases, said Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the county health department. Neither case is expected to be fatal.

Mosquitoes carrying the virus have been found so far this summer in counties across the state, including Box Elder, Cache, Carbon, Davis, Duchesne, Salt Lake, Uintah and Utah.

Virus-infected mosquitoes are typically out from dusk until dawn, state epidemiologist Keegan McCaffrey said in a statement. Wearing long sleeves and pants, wearing repellants containing DEET and getting rid of any standing water can help reduce contact with such mosquitoes.

“There is no vaccine for human,” McCaffrey said. “So, taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites is the key to reducing your risk for infection.”

There were 13 human cases of West Nile reported in Utah in 2016, state Department of Health data shows, one of which resulted in death. Eleven of those cases were in Salt Lake County and the other two in Utah and Duchesne counties.

About 2,000 cases of West Nile were reported nationwide in 2016, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

One in five people who contract West Nile develop symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea and rash, the CDC says. Most people recover quickly, but about one percent of those infected develop severe neurological illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis that can result in death.

With back-to-school season underway and Labor Day coming up, Rupp said residents sometimes aren’t as concerned with summer illnesses even though they should be.

“We could have West Nile until mosquitoes die off, which could be as late as mid October,” Rupp said. ” We still have a couple months to be vigilant.”