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Protect yourselves from mosquito bites and West Nile Virus

Brittany Markert
bmarkert@gjfreepress.com
Mosquito (Culex pipiens) going to sting
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

WEST NILE VIRUS

About 80 percent of people who contract West Nile virus don’t develop symptoms.

Symptoms develop five to seven days after infection due to the incubation process.

Symptoms include a fever with headache, body aches, and fatigue. The fever can cause sever discomfort and lead to more serious complications like meningitis and encephalitis.

Those with certain medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, and hypertension are at greater risk for serious illness.

There is no cure for West Nile virus.

Last year, Mesa County had 11 human cases of the virus and one death.

Though Mesa County’s pesky biting gnat population experienced growth due to increased summer precipitation, mosquito numbers are holding steady. Even so, area residents should remain cautious and wear insect repellent as a pool of Grand Valley mosquitoes recently tested positive for West Nile virus.

“Summer brings out insects; unfortunately, there’s no avoiding that,” Mesa County Health Department communication manager Veronica Harvey said.

According to Mesa County Health Department, West Nile is an illness spread by mosquito bites. The virus is contracted easily by those who have a weakened immune systems, including the young, elderly, and those with serious medical conditions like cancer or hypertension. West Nile can cause meningitis and encephalitis due to the fever coinciding with the virus.



Areas with a high concentration of mosquitoes include south orchard Mesa to north Orchard due to the Colorado River succession, as well as the Horsethief Canyon area in Fruita.

“Valley-wide the number of mosquitoes aren’t too bad,” Grand River Mosquito Control District (GRMCD) manager Zane McCallister said. “The numbers are at or below what we typically see, with pockets consistent year to year.”



McCallister also clarified that mosquitoes don’t really bite; rather they puncture skin and suck with a long mouth tube. The mosquito then drools into the blood stream to facilitate drinking. If the insect feeds on a bird (or another animal) infected with a virus before feeding on a human, illness can be transmitted quickly between species.

Fun fact: Only female mosquitoes take what is called a blood meal, (injecting and taking blood). This is necessary for egg development.

“I jokingly call them mosquito piercings,” McCallister added.

Ways to avoid insect bites include wearing inspect repellent with DEET, picaridin or lemon of eucalyptus oil; dressing in long pants and sleeves when outdoors; avoiding outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active; and draining standing water on residential property.

GRMCD isn’t out the eradicate all mosquitoes, McCallister stressed, but it maintains the population to reduce virus transmission and monitor mosquito activity.

“There are at least 26 species [of mosquito] that show up in the valley,” McCallister explained.

RELIEVE THE ITCH

Though insect bites can be avoided, irritating red bumps still often happen. The area become itchy, red and inflamed because the human body is allergic to mosquito saliva; and the body responds just like any other injury — sending blood to the infected area, creating a physical reaction.

Dr. Scott Rollins, a Mesa County physician specializing in complex medical conditions, suggests applying a topical steroid ointment immediately after noticing bites. An anti-histamine cream works, too.

Other home remedies published by a recent Huffington Post article include applying a cold pack to the infected area; dabbing honey on the bite as it’s a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent; applying equal parts milk and water to a cloth and applying it to the bite (skim milk works best); and slapping or pinching near the bite site to distract the brain from the itchiness.


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