West Nile virus is confirmed

Officials had predicted that it was only a matter of time. Mosquitoes trapped locally and tested at the Utah Public Health Lab on July 11 returned positive for West Nile virus after they were collected July 2 at the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve, according to Grand County Clerk-Auditor Chris Baird.

Culex are vector mosquitoes, meaning they carry the virus from infected birds to humans and other mammals. They are night biters that transmit West Nile, with the peak flight time two hours after the first stars appear near sunset.

The Moab Mosquito Abatement District will be fogging at that time of day in areas where the Culex are most prominent, said Baird, and where the insects present a significant risk.

Baird, citing common precautions people can take, said the risk of being bitten after dark can be reduced by wearing long-sleeved, brightly colored shirts, pants, and using mosquito repellant that contains as its active ingredient DEET or picaridin; or oil of lemon eucalyptus. These EPA-approved repellants are safe and effective and won’t cause problems for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Here are some other tips: Make sure window screens are in good shape.

Remove all standing water from properties, including unmaintained swimming and wading pools, hot tubs, buckets with water, and troughs for livestock. Be extra careful if near flood-irrigated fields.

Be calm. The risk of serious disease is low, according to the district. Most who are affected will experience mild to severe flu-like illness with achy muscles, fever, rash and headache that usually last a few days–but can last for months. In rare cases, according to the district, those infected can contract meningitis or encephalitis.

People with compromised immune systems, high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease are most at risk, with senior citizens the most likely to experience severe complications. One person out of 1,000 who are infected will die, on average.

Horses are more likely to get the virus, but no properly vaccinated horse has been known to become significantly ill.

The virus most often kills birds, such as crows, ravens, magpies, jays, hawks, eagles and owls. Residents who observe one of these birds acting in an oddly sick manner, or find one newly dead with no obvious cause, or they want to report stagnant water, are asked to call the Mosquito Abatement District at 435-259-7161.

Fogging operations will continue indefinitely. A pilot sprayed larvicide on 300 acres of the preserve on Sunday, an effort that should reduce the number of mosquitoes yet to hatch. Grand County approved a more than $80,000 emergency expenditure to spray due to public health concerns.