Testing for West Nile Virus has begun in Colorado | PostIndependent.com

Testing for West Nile Virus has begun in Colorado

State and local health department laboratories have started testing dead birds, mosquitoes and horses for West Nile Virus, which is expected to reappear in the state later this spring or summer.

As of June 1, preliminary test results for birds and mosquitoes were negative for West Nile virus.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s laboratory in Denver and five regional public health laboratories are accepting birds for testing with certain conditions. To be eligible for testing, a dead bird must be a crow, raven, magpie or jay and have been dead less than 48 hours. An exact location of where the bird was found must be provided.

John Pape, an epidemiologist who specializes in animal-related diseases for the Department of Public Health and Environment, advised people who find a dead bird on their property to place the bird in a plastic bag, using gloves or a shovel, and to keep it cool.

Contact the county public health department, county public health nursing service, or local animal control agency in the area where you reside.

West Nile virus is carried by birds and transmitted by mosquitoes that feed on the birds’ blood and then pass the virus on to humans and to other animals, such as horses.

People can best protect themselves and their families by preventing mosquito bites. It is particularly important for individuals 50 years of age and older to take precautions, because they are most susceptible to becoming seriously ill from West Nile virus.

When outdoors wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants and apply insect repellent to exposed skin.

People should repair holes in existing screens and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites on their property.

In June 2002, West Nile virus was made a reportable disease by the Colorado Board of Health so that all human cases of the disease will be reported immediately to state health officials. Cases of the disease involving horses also are monitored.

The virus first arrived in Colorado in mid-August 2002. During the season last year, Colorado registered 14 human cases, 138 bird cases and 380 horse cases. There were no human deaths in the state.

For the past several years, chicken flocks located strategically across the state have been checked every two weeks from May through September for mosquito-related diseases, including West Nile virus, Western Equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis. Local officials also monitor the number and type of mosquitoes in and around the state with certain mosquitoes being tested for the presence of these viruses.

For more information on West Nile virus prevention, visit the Fight The Bite Web site at http://www.fightthebitecolorado. com.

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