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SLCo Health Department Reports State's First Human West Nile Virus Case

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CDC, KUER

The Salt Lake County Health Department has confirmed Utah’s first human case of West Nile Virus this year. Health officials are urging people to protect themselves against the mosquito-borne virus.  Dr. Dagmar Vitek is a health director with the Salt Lake County Health Department.  She says the department does regular testing for the presence of the virus in mosquitoes.

“And they are in Salt Lake County. They’re not somewhere in wetlands," says Dr. Vitek, "that they are here, so we knew that seeing human cases is going to be just a matter of time.”

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Credit Salt Lake County Health Department
Common mosquito; Culiseta longiareolata

Vitek says less severe symptoms of West Nile Virus include fever, headache, and body aches but a more severe case can cause life-long disability or death. She says there is no vaccine people could get in the spring to protect against the virus and there are only treatments for symptoms.    

“So people, the public, have to take some action because prevention is the only way to go,” says Vitek.

The doctor urges the use of repellents that contain DEET when outdoors early in the morning or in the evening and wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants instead of shorts. Vitek says people with weakened immune systems or who are elderly are at the highest risk of severe symptoms due to the virus.

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