Diagnosis brings dire news on West Nile virus: `It’s here’
Post Independent Staff
CARBONDALE – The Carbondale man who contracted Garfield County’s first reported case of human West Nile virus is at home and recuperating, said Mary Meisner, Garfield County’s public health nurse, on Tuesday.
Meisner warned this is not an isolated case.
“It’s here,” Meisner said of the virus. “It’s in Carbondale.”
It’s also in Edwards. On Tuesday, Eagle County public health officials confirmed another human case of West Nile. The Edwards resident had a viral fever, but was not hospitalized for the infection. No other information was available as of press time.
The Carbondale man – who asked medical staff not to disclose his name or age – experienced the first onset of symptoms on Aug. 11, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
That means he was likely bitten by a mosquito with West Nile virus at the end of July or the first part of August, since the virus incubates for about 10 days before symptoms appear.
Meisner said the man contracted the virus in Garfield County. He had not traveled outside the county during the incubation period.
A Carbondale magpie recently tested positive for the virus, which was one of two birds Garfield County health officials have reported with West Nile.
Meisner confirmed the Carbondale man experienced a viral fever, but did not suffer two more serious forms of the infection – meningitis, which is inflammation of the membranes of the spinal cord or brain, or encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.
People are not the only locals contracting the virus.
In Rifle, Barb Gold owns a 16-year-old brood mare named Sweet (“Sweetie”) Velocity. Last week, veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Chandler confirmed the mare had West Nile. Sweetie, who was not vaccinated for the virus, is doing well, reported Gold. She is expecting her foal in April.
“We’ll have to see about the foal,” said Gold. “The vets don’t yet know if the foal will have antibodies against West Nile, or will have defects because of it.”
Cat and dog owners can rest easy, however. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health, there have been no reported cases of the virus affecting either species.
Garfield School District Re-2 superintendent Gary Pack said the district’s nurses, teachers and coaches are up to speed on West Nile prevention. School started in the district on Tuesday, Aug. 19.
“All our schools are very much aware of West Nile, and we’re taking all precautions,” Pack said. “We’ve sent information home about the virus, and have mosquito repellent available, particularly in the early mornings and late afternoons.”
Roaring Fork School District Re-1 is preparing for the first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 2.
Superintendent Fred Wall said he would be meeting with county health officials and school nurses to determine the best way to protect local schoolchildren – and particularly school athletes who practice outside after school during prime mosquito time.
“It’s a dilemma. We have to be very careful because of allergies and that sort of thing,” Wall said.
“We can’t just spray the playgrounds. But we might send a letter to parents asking that if they want their children to have mosquito repellent, to send a personal spray to school with them. We absolutely have to talk about it,” he said.
Statewide, the big picture
Surprisingly, most people who are infected with mosquito-borne viruses like West Nile do not become ill and have no symptoms.
“It really depends on where your body is with its immunity,” Meisner said.
For those who have experienced West Nile symptoms this year in Colorado, 79 percent have had a fever, 15 percent have had meningitis, and 6 percent suffered encephalitis, the most serious form of the virus, which can lead to death.
Statewide, 699 people – 341 females and 358 males – have tested positive for the virus this season.
Weld County leads Colorado with 133 human cases. Larimer County has 110 confirmed cases, followed by Boulder County with 87 and Pueblo County with 54. Eight people in Colorado have died as a result of contracting the illness.
Information: Garfield County public health nurse Mary Meisner, 625-5200 or 945-6614, or http://www.fightthebitecolorado.com.
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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