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West Nile confirmed in Garfield County

BATTLEMENT MESA – The first positive case of West Nile virus has been reported in Garfield County.

The positive sample came from a dead magpie that a Battlement Mesa resident discovered Tuesday night. The resident phoned Garfield County vegetation manager Steve Anthony, who is monitoring West Nile virus within the county. Anthony took a swab sample of the bird’s throat on Wednesday morning, and transported the sample to Mesa County Health Department in Grand Junction.

Anthony received word Thursday afternoon from the Mesa County lab that the sample tested positive.



“I belong to a Western Slope West Nile task force,” he said. “There’s been a feeling that some of our mountain communities were going to skate by West Nile, but that didn’t happen. This is the first confirmed case in Garfield County. As it did on the East Slope, activity may spread very rapidly.”

As of this week, there are 111 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in humans in Colorado. That number is expected to rise, said Anthony. All human cases of the virus have been reported east of the Continental Divide.



Anthony said that the woman who identified the dead bird and subsequently contacted his office attended a West Nile virus presentation he gave with Garfield County Public Health staff at the Parachute Senior Center earlier this year. County public health officials have been concerned about Battlement Mesa’s population, since a large percentage of people who contract West Nile virus are over 50. Battlement Mesa has a large senior population.

Four people in Colorado died this week as a result of contracting West Nile virus. All four victims were 68 and over. They were the first human deaths from the disease in Colorado.

West Nile virus is a disease that can be transmitted to humans by Culex tarsalis, a species of mosquito. The virus is carried long distances by birds and then spread locally. Anthony said there are still six to seven weeks of mosquito feeding left this season.

Currently, there is no vaccination for humans to protect against the virus. Vaccinations are available to horses, and Anthony said for horse owners to contact their veterinarians. The virus is not always fatal, but it can lead to death.

“Obviously, we’re concerned about finding West Nile in Battlement Mesa,” Anthony said. “Locals are strongly encouraged to protect themselves against misquitos.”

West Nile virus disease is rare. Less than 1 percent of people who get bitten and become infected will get severely ill. The chances of a person becoming severely ill from any one mosquito bite are extremely small. Three to 15 percent of those who become severely ill from the virus will die from it.

Anthony cautioned that anyone with symptoms including high fever, severe headache and stiff neck should contact a local health care provider immediately or Garfield County Public Health at 945-6614 in Glenwood Springs or 625-5200 in Rifle.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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