A deceased horse tested positive for West Nile Virus this month in Washington County, where mosquito samples were also found to contain the virus earlier this year. This disease has been endemic (found naturally) in southwest Utah since 2003. It can spread to humans although only 20% of those infected will experience symptoms, which are similar to having the flu without respiratory symptoms. In rare cases the disease can become more severe and can include painful headache, seizures, and coma. . So far there have been no human cases in the state for 2010, although neighboring Arizona leads the nation in West Nile Virus activity with 23 human cases and two deaths.
"The presence of the virus in local mosquitoes and other animals reminds us to be vigilant," said Lisa Starr, SWUPHD surveillance nurse. "Wear repellent with 30% DEET when outdoors from dusk to dawn, wear long pants and sleeves, and empty standing water on your property"
Washington County is experiencing an increase in cases of viral meningitis, which develops from common enteroviruses that show up in late summer and fall. Most cases have been in younger children who all required hospitalization. Viral meningitis is often passed through fecal contact and respiratory secretions. Symptoms usually consist of high fever (101°+) and severe headache. Stiff neck, rash, and gastrointestinal symptoms can also occur.
Lisa Starr of Southwest Utah Public Health Department said "We want to stress hand-washing and hygiene this time of year. You can lower your risk of getting viral meningitis and other bugs going around by washing your hands thoroughly and often, especially after changing diapers or being around people who are ill. If you get sick, cover your coughs and sneezes with your sleeve and stay home," she said.
Starr works in the Communicable Disease/Emergency Preparedness Division of the SWUPHD and assists in investigating and tracking diseases that pose a risk to the health of the public.