Mosquito season is upon us

Utah’s public health officials are reminding all residents who will be outside during the summer to protect themselves from mosquito bites, according to a press release from the Utah Department of Health.

The Department of Health recommends that when making plans to be outside, you wear clothing to protect your arms and legs and use an insect repellent with 20 to 30 percent DEET, which is safe to use during pregnancy. It also recommends removing any puddles or standing water around your home to prevent mosquito breeding sites, maintaining your swimming pool to prevent mosquito breeding and reporting bodies of stagnant water to your local Mosquito Abatement District. Doors, windows and screens should be in good condition and should fit tightly. Consult with an immunization travel clinic before traveling to areas that may have mosquito-borne illness such as Zika or dengue.

So far this season, the press release states, no locally acquired human cases of any mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus or Zika virus have been reported in Utah, and the mosquitoes that carry Zika virus aren’t currently found in Utah.

However in the past, “We have had cases of West Nile here in Moab,” said Southeastern Utah Department of Health Environmental Health Director Orion Rogers. “Every year we do have at least some mosquitoes test positive.”

Utah Department of Health (UDOH) epidemiologist Dallin Peterson warns in the press release, “Since there is no human vaccine for these diseases, taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites are key to reducing your risk for infection.” A West Nile virus vaccine is available for horses and officials recommend all horses be vaccinated against the disease.

“The best way to reduce your risk for any illness carried by mosquitoes is to use an insect repellent with DEET when you’re outside,” says Peterson. “Adults and children older than two months of age can safely use repellents that contain up to 30% DEET,” Peterson added. Repellents are not recommended for children younger than two months of age.

For those who wish to avoid DEET, the Center for Disease Control recommends several alternative options. Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or 2-undecanone are all valid alternatives registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the CDC website.