Recent blood tests on chickens in coups in Stansbury Park and Lake Point show no West Nile virus is present in local mosquito populations.
“We have two coups with a few chickens in each coup at Stansbury Park and Lake Point, and we test their blood every two weeks,” said Scott Bradshaw, Tooele Valley Mosquito Abatement district manager. “None of the chickens have tested positive.”
However, health departments in Salt Lake, Utah and Box Elder counties have reported finding mosquitoes with West Nile virus during the months of July and August, according to reports.
“The last time we found West Nile in one of our chickens was back in 2015,” Bradshaw said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile virus is commonly spread to humans by mosquito bites. Symptoms of the virus include headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea and rash. But 8 out of 10 people infected don’t develop symptoms.
About 1 in 150 who are infected suffer encephalitis or meningitis. Recovery can take several weeks or months, and some effects to the central nervous system may be permanent.
The culex tarsalis mosquito, which can be a carrier of West Nile virus, made its 2017 debut in Tooele County back in June. But none were found carrying the disease.
The sentinel chickens used to detect the virus don’t develop symptoms of West Nile, according to Bradshaw. “Their bodies develop antibodies within a week of being bitten by an infected mosquito,” he said.
Bradshaw said the coups are located in areas where most of the mosquitoes gather in the district that covers Lake Point, Erda, Grantsville, Stansbury Park and Stockton.
“We take them out of the coup and draw blood from a wing,” he said. “If we do find one of our chickens has the virus, we would contact the health department and notify the media about it.”
The district also uses 11 carbon monoxide-baited traps throughout the district to check for the virus.
According to information published by the Utah Health Department, three people in the state were infected with West Nile virus in 2011. One case was in Tooele County, one in Salt Lake County and one in Cache County. One horse was infected in Iron County that year.
In the evening, Bradshaw periodically sends a “fogging” truck to spray neighborhoods and farmland with large mosquito populations. The spray targets adult mosquitoes.
Residents may call the mosquito abatement district at 801-250-3879 to report areas where mosquitoes are present in large numbers. Bradshaw said he takes the calls into account when deciding where to send the “fogger” next.
He said mosquitoes should be prevalent until about mid-September, and be gone by the first week of October.