Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Human Case of West Nile Virus of 2013 Confirmed

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Public health officials from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) say the first human case of West Nile virus in Utah for 2013 has been identified in Washington County. Washington County has also reported the first positive case of West Nile virus in a horse.

To date, most of the activity involving positive mosquito pools has been detected in southwestern Utah, but that doesn’t mean West Nile virus isn’t present in other parts of Utah. UDOH epidemiologist JoDee Baker warns, “There is no vaccine for humans. So, taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites is the key to reducing your risk for infection.”   

While West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, not all mosquitoes carry the virus. The mosquitoes that carry the virus are typically out from dusk to dawn. When you’re outdoors during those times, it’s important to follow these guidelines: 

Use mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus when outdoors. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents should contain no more than 30% DEET when used on children. Insect repellents also are not recommended for children younger than two months of age. 
Wear long sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors.
Remove any puddles or standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed, including birdbaths, swimming/wading pools, old tires, buckets and plant containers.
Report bodies of stagnant water to the local Mosquito Abatement District (MAD). Visit for a list of MADs.
Contact a veterinarian for information on vaccinating horses.

While most people infected by this virus won't notice any symptoms, some people may experience flu-like symptoms or worse.  The elderly and people with poor immune systems are at higher risk for symptomatic disease. The most serious cases can lead to hospitalization, disability, or death. Symptoms of the severe form of West Nile virus include: high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, disorientation and confusion. If you are experiencing symptoms of West Nile virus, please contact your healthcare provider immediately. 

West Nile virus surveillance in Utah is underway and will continue into the fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit Throughout the West Nile virus season, the UDOH web site will be updated each Wednesday with available detection information.

Media Contact: 
Rebecca Ward

Monday, August 12, 2013

Aging Utahns Report Cognitive Decline

(Salt Lake City, UT) — While studies show Utah’s older adults to be physically healthier than their national counterparts, new self-reported figures show they are losing their cognitive health. A recent, first-ever telephone survey of its kind found nearly 17% of Utahns aged 60 and older are experiencing memory loss that is happening more frequently or getting worse. Combined results from other surveyed states found this self-reported measure at an average of nearly 13%.

In 2005, the CDC launched the Healthy Brain Initiative, partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to develop a set of 10 questions to measure the public health burden of cognitive decline. Six years later, the Utah Department of Health, through its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, asked those questions of nearly 1,000 Utah adults aged 60 and older. Questions covered areas like confusion and memory loss, as well as the impact they have on seniors’ ability to function inside and outside the home and to care for themselves.  

New research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in July detailed a growing body of evidence that subjective cognitive decline (SCD) — the self-reported perception of memory or cognition problems — may be a valid early indicator of future Alzheimer's disease or another dementia.

 “It’s very important to ask our aging seniors these questions,” said Kathryn Marti, Director, UDOH Office of Public Health Assessment. “We need their answers so we can understand and plan for the kinds of resources and services our elderly will need to age safely.”  

Melissa Lee with the Alzheimer’s Association Utah Chapter says that, as Alzheimer's advances through the brain, it leads to increasingly severe symptoms. “We are seeing that patients find themselves getting disoriented, experiencing mood and behavior changes, including becoming suspicious about their loved ones,” said Lee. “In the later stages they begin having trouble walking, talking, and swallowing.”

In 2011, Alzheimer’s was the sixth leading cause of death among Utahns 60 and older. And while there is no cure, the study outlines specific actions the public health community and its partners can take to help preserve and promote cognitive functioning for the elderly and to help support their caregivers.

For more information on the Healthy Brain Initiative, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at  For the full BRFSS report summery, visit And for information on services for the aging, or if you suspect a loved one is suffering from cognitive decline, call 1-800-272-3900.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Employers Have New Tool to Learn About, Teach Affordable Care Act to Employees

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health is offering free on-line trainings for employers and their employees. “These trainings cover basic information of the affordable care act, preventive services covered by the ACA, and information on worksite wellness programs for both employers and employees,” said Tania Charette, project lead.

The trainings were developed through joint collaboration among the Heart Disease Prevention, Cancer Control, and Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs. “We want employers and employees to have information on this relevant topic so that when they go get their insurance, they know what to look for in a good policy,” said Nicole Bissonette, UDOH Health Systems Program Manager.

“In the long run, everyone wins by having healthy employees, from the individual to the community,” Charette added.

The trainings are available on-line at  for easy accessibility.