SALT LAKE CITY– The COVID-19 pandemic has not only wreaked havoc with daily lives, its likewise tossed a wrench in efforts to fight another pesky bug– the mosquito-borne West Nile infection.
But as the state saw its very first positive test for the disease in a sample from the Uinta Basin recently, local health authorities state the rate of testing will be selecting up along the Wasatch Front.
Ary Faraji, executive director of the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District, said the whole mosquito tracking and screening procedure has been made complex by the novel coronavirus outbreak. Evaluating for West Nile by the Utah Department of Health is only about 5% of what was completed in June and mid-July 2019.
Faraji stated a lack of personnel and social distancing measures that staggered work times and limited working in groups has actually affected the Salt Lake department.
” We do not have the luxury of working from house, we need to in fact get out into the field where the mosquitoes are,” Faraji stated. “If we could eliminate mosquitoes from house that would be very, really simple for us, however we need to get out.”
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of a contaminated mosquito and can trigger serious disease, particularly for individuals older than 50 and those whose immune systems are compromised, according to Hannah Rettler, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health.
Rettler said most human cases happen in Utah in between June and October, however fortunately is most individuals– 70% to 80%– dont establish any signs.
Another issue developed by pandemic was a scarcity of testing devices for the regional mosquito abatement districts.
Todd Haskew, Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District vector control specialist, collects a water sample from a mosquito source, searching for mosquito larvae, in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 23, 2020. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, KSL) There has actually been a scarcity of the plastics and devices used in testing, so theres been a bit of a backlog in getting the proper equipment, Faraji stated, though this too is starting to be dealt with as producers have started to ramp up production.
This concern has also impacted the Davis County Mosquito Abatement District.
” Right now we are struggling a bit here to do our testing. We were having a great deal of difficulty getting the plastics needed for our equipment due to the fact that of the coronavirus,” said facility manager Gary Hatch, explaining that due to the backlog of plastic orders they tried to use off-brand ones that wound up harmful equipment.
Hatch stated they are attempting to get somebody to repair it, however this has also been delayed because of the pandemic.
” We were hoping we d be up and running today but it looks like we are not going to make it so we may run our samples to the state health lab,” he said.
There have been no confirmed human cases of West Nile virus this year, but the Utah Department of Health and mosquito reduction districts like Davis County and Salt Lake City are advising Utahns to take actions to secure themselves from possibly dangerous bites.
” Unfortunately the public has actually kind of accepted that West Nile virus is taking place and its occurring every year and they type of ignore it,” Faraji stated. “We truly try to communicate the message that mosquito control is a task for everyone.”
He emphasized the community can considerably help prevent West Nile virus by getting rid of bodies of standing water on their home as these can create a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
He pointed to bird baths, family pet dishes and tires or wheelbarrows stationed in a backyard that might be collecting water.
” Every little thing that citizens can do by themselves properties will go a long methods and not just help us in the mosquito reduction districts, but likewise help the entire community as a whole,” he stated. “Public health is actually a task for everybody and we anticipate everybody to be doing their part.”
The only location to evaluate favorable for the West Nile virus so far this year is a swimming pool in the Uinta Basin, which was found Monday, according to Rettler. Thats not to state they arent somewhere else, though the state has a structure in place to scout for extra outbreaks.
” We have a pretty robust monitoring system that we collaborate from the state, our regional health department partners, the mosquito abatement districts, our tribal partners,” Rettler stated. “There is a statewide collaborative effort in between great deals of various firms that add to monitoring.”
These security efforts are largely carried out on the local level by the mosquito reduction districts, which consist of setting and collecting traps in the field, recognizing the mosquito types present and looking for illness, according to Faraji.
This is done by taking a sample of the mosquitoes in a trap and checking them for the existence of West Nile infection. Some districts send out the samples to the state health department for screening, however others like the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District, have the ability to check within their own department.
Rettler discussed that a person in 150 people who are infected across the country will establish extreme signs that can negatively impact ones central nerve system, inflame the brain and cause other serious conditions, which is why its important to be careful.
The variety of cases that happen in the state each year differs widely.
The Utah Department of Health says there were 21 verified human cases in 2019, however Rettler said cases another year peaked at 150. 2 individuals passed away of West Nile virus in 2019.
” We absolutely dont want to add to peoples fear of being outdoors, this is something that thankfully is not a substantial number of West Nile cases that we see each year, however its something we desire people to be familiar with and safeguard themselves,” Rettler said.
Tips for preventing mosquito bites and potential direct exposure to West Nile virus:
Wear long sleeves, trousers and socks while outdoors, specifically during dawn or dusk, which are peak biting times for many mosquitos.
Consider rescheduling outside activities that take place throughout these peak times.
Keep windows, screens and doors in great condition.
Report bodies of stagnant water to a local mosquito abatement district.
Eliminate or often change standing bodies of water.
Use mosquito repellant approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More stories you may have an interest in