OGDEN, Utah– A child in Utah has tested positive for Zika virus, but mosquito abatement experts said that doesn’t mean the disease will become widespread in the state. Gary Hatch, the manager of Davis County Mosquito Abatement, said it’s still not likely for mosquitos to transmit the virus in Utah.
Zika Virus in Utah
“The two mosquito species that spread the disease currently are not here in Utah,” Hatch said.
Those species, the Aedes mosquitos, have been found in Utah in the past. Hatch said they were introduced to the state through a shipment of bamboo from China.
“It is definitely on our radar and we are definitely watching for it,” Hatch said. “Along with many other diseases that are out there that we are monitoring very closely.”
Travelers Transmitting the Virus
Mosquitos transmitting the virus are less of a concern, Hatch said. Instead, Utah may experience more traveler-related cases. The Utah Department of Health announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the virus in a Utah child between the age of two and 10. The child had reportedly traveled to a country where the virus is prevalent.
“We have travelers that are going to be going out around the world and in some of these places where Zika is very prevalent right now and they will pick it up and bring it back,” Hatch said.
The disease isn’t fatal, but Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to be born with small heads and brains. Keela Disterhaft, a student at Weber State University, is expecting her first daughter, and she said the virus has her concerned.
“I actually do worry about travelers bringing it back because my husband is deployed right now,” Disterhaft said. “But he’s in an area where I don’t think it’s really big right now.”
Preventing the Virus
Experts are carefully monitoring the mosquito population, but Hatch said prevention is key. Since there’s no cure or vaccine for the virus, Hatch recommends taking extra precautions to avoid the virus.
Unlike other mosquitos that many Utahns are used to, the Aedes species of mosquitos that transmits Zika virus are active at all hours of the day, not just dusk. Because of that, those who are traveling to an area where the disease is prevalent should constantly take measures to prevent mosquito bites.
You can wear protective clothing, use bug repellant, remove standing water where mosquitos can breed and make sure windows and doors are closed to keep mosquitos out. Public health officials are also encouraging pregnant women to postpone traveling to affected areas, if at all possible.