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WELD COUNTY — Last week, county health officials announced that two of the three mosquito testing zones in Weld County tested positive for West Nile Virus.
While the overall risk for WNV remains low, precaution is urged.
“It is early for the mosquito traps to test positive for West Nile virus,” said Dr. Mark Wallace, executive director for the Weld County Health Department. “So it’s important for the public to take precautions against mosquito bites.” In past years, WNV activity did not begin until July. There are high numbers of flood water mosquitoes due to the recent mountain runoff and rains, but these mosquitoes do not carry disease.
Health department monitoring of mosquitoes began in early June through a network of mosquito traps set by Colorado Mosquito Control. The Culex mosquito, known to spread West Nile virus, is tested to determine the risk of disease to humans. Some municipalities in Weld County have mosquito control programs that include spraying. These programs reduce the number of mosquitoes but don’t eliminate all mosquitoes. Unfortunately, spraying for mosquitoes also kills beneficial insects, such as bees.
Recommendations to prevent mosquito bites and to reduce breeding areas include:
• Apply an effective mosquito repellent to exposed skin and clothing to help avoid mosquito bites.
• Wear light colors and loose fitting fabrics because mosquitoes seem to be attracted to darker colors and can bite through tighter fitting clothing. Wear a hat to prevent bites to the head.
• Drain any standing water that provides breeding places for mosquitoes. Use a Mosquito Dunk (larvacide) if you have standing water that you cannot drain.
• Avoid overwatering lawns, as mosquitoes can breed in very small amounts of water.
West Nile virus is carried by birds and transmitted by mosquitoes that bite the infected birds. Infected mosquitoes transmit the virus to humans, horses, and birds. West Nile virus symptoms may appear in 3–14 days after infection. Initial symptoms include fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches and weakness and rash. Symptoms of severe illness include high fever, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, vision loss, paralysis and even death.
If someone develops symptoms, they should contact their health care provider immediately.