Take precautions against West Nile virus | PostIndependent.com

Take precautions against West Nile virus

Samantha Pal
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” One coffee can filled with water on your back deck could breed 10,000 mosquitoes, some of which could be infected with West Nile virus, according to Steve Anthony, vegetation manager at Garfield County Public Health.

We are in the middle of peak mosquito season, so this is the time of year people need to be most vigilant about protecting themselves from West Nile, Anthony said.

Few mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus, but Anthony said that will change rapidly over the next few weeks.

The main carrier of the virus, the Culex tarsalis mosquito, has been found in the Garfield County area. West Nile virus is carried by birds and then spread by mosquitoes that bite them.

Not everyone bitten by an infected mosquito will become ill, but the virus can lead to very serious illness and possibly death. Symptoms of the virus include fever, disorientation, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, headache, nausea, blurred vision, dizziness and difficulty moving or speaking. Encephalitis and meningitis can also be contracted from mosquitoes. Anyone who experiences these symptoms after a mosquito bite should contact their medical provider immediately.

Based on data from the past four seasons, 85 percent of Colorado cases of West Nile have been contracted in about a six-week window from July 1 through the second week of August, Anthony said.

The heat encourages mosquitoes’ activity, and they are especially active in the early morning to dawn and just before sundown to midnight.

“We have to stay on our toes until we have a frost,” Anthony said. “The next few weeks are really critical.”

County residents need to be alert to the threat until mid September. There are many precautions people can take to avoid becoming infected, or to avoid the inconvenience of those itchy bumps.

Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, and if you must be outside during that time, wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes and socks, Anthony said. Use DEET mosquito repellents, or products that contain picaridin. Oil of lemon eucalyptus provides protection equal to lower concentrations of DEET.

Anthony encourages everyone to eliminate standing water in tires, buckets, toys and other water-holding containers. Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes every three to five days.

Anthony said for those who have standing water around their home that can’t be drained, consider using larvacide, which can be placed directly in water and kills mosquito larvae before they have a chance to hatch.

For more detailed West Nile virus information visit http://www.fightthebitecolorado.com, or call the Garfield County Public Health Department at 945-6614 or 625-5200. Contact Colorado Mosquito Control at 930-0018 with concerns about potential mosquito breeding sites.

Contact Samantha Pal: 384-9105, spal@postindependent.com

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