Last modified: Monday, November 28, 2016

Wildlife disease in Utah

Answers to frequently asked questions

Question: Is West Nile virus in Utah?

Answer: Yes, West Nile virus has been found in several Utah counties. Learn more about West Nile virus.

Question: Is there a vaccine available for humans?

Answer: No, there is currently no vaccine approved for use in humans. The best method of protection is to avoid contact with infected mosquitoes.

Question: How can I protect my horses from West Nile virus infection?

Answer: There is a vaccine available for use in horses. Please contact your local veterinarian or visit the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food's website for further information.

Question: What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?

Answer: In humans, West Nile virus infection typically produces few to no symptoms. In many cases, people infected with WNV have reported feeling flu-like symptoms (i.e. headache, muscle aches and neck stiffness). In rare cases, WNV infection may cause more severe symptoms, such as encephalitis (or swelling of the brain). People over the age of 50 may be at an increased risk of more severe forms of WNV infection. For more information on the symptoms of West Nile virus infection visit the Utah Department of Health.

Question: Are my pets at risk of contracting WNV?

Answer: Very few domesticated cats or dogs have been reported as being positive for WNV. Domestic cats and dogs are considered to be at very low risk of infection.

Question: Should hunters be concerned about eating the game birds they catch?

Answer: Some game birds have tested positive for WNV. However, there is no evidence of human infection by consumption of properly cooked infected game. Hunters are likely at higher risk of infection by mosquito exposure, particularly in wetland environments. Protective measures should be taken to prevent mosquito exposure while hunting. Also, WNV transmission to humans has been documented to occur by accidental injury in the laboratory and by blood transfusion. It is recommended that hunters wear gloves when dressing (cleaning) the birds to protect against accidental injury and exposure to blood. Immediately consult with a physician should an injury occur to discuss the risk of WNV exposure from the injury. Other protective measures recommended to hunters are those that prevent exposure to any infectious organisms carried by game species, including washing hands with soap and water after handling carcasses and cooking the meat thoroughly.

Question: I have a bird feeder and/or a birdbath on my property. Am I at increased risk of catching WNV?

Question: At this time, there isn't evidence to indicate that humans can get infected directly from an infected bird. However, it is recommended to always follow general hygienic procedures. Birdbaths and feeders should be washed or disinfected regularly (cleaning a bird feeder). Wash your hands with soap and water after touching the baths/feeders. To prevent mosquitoes from breeding on your property, empty and clean birdbaths at least once a week and eliminate any other standing water in your area. Contact local health officials if you are concerned about potential mosquito breeding sites in your area.

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