State Fair Takes Aim at Mosquitoes

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The mosquito-spraying schedule has been stepped up at the State Fair Grounds in Pueblo to try and prevent the spread of the West Nile Virus.

There have already been 2 deadly cases of the disease in Pueblo County, and the number of human cases is expected to grow. Colorado has a total of 154 human cases. That's the highest number in the country.

At least five of those people are being treated at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo. The infectious disease specialist says there's no cure for the disease, so he just gives his patients painkillers and plenty of fluids. "Some of them are just mildly sick---headache and nausea. Others are extremely ill---almost comatose," says Dr. John Lieberman.

In just about a week, the State Fairgrounds in Pueblo will be open to hundreds of visitors. Fair organizers don't want to take any chances with mosquitoes, so they're taking aggressive action to control them.

Since the end of May, state fair workers have been spraying for mosquitoes at least once or twice per week. And that schedule is now picking up. "We're spraying every day. That will continue until it cools down and we don't have to worry about mosquitoes," says Mike Crecelius, State Fair Maintenance worker.

The fogging is done early---between 4:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. They're hoping to kill up to 95 % of the mosquitoes. Workers are also killing mosquito larvae. "Something we've added this year we didn't have in the pas---we're putting in larvae bacteria in all the ponds and we're eliminating standing water," says Chris Wiseman, State Fair Manager.

All of the fair workers have been given mosquito repellent, and they're encouraged to use it. And because of all the horses, cows and other animals at the fair, workers are also spraying for flies. But it's more important to kill the mosquitoes.

The fair is a big draw for horse lovers. There's a horse show every day, and a rodeo on the first eight nights. Since horses can also get sick and die from West Nile Virus, it's something their owners need to think about. "Most horse owners have taken precautions to vaccinate their horse, but it is a good idea. If they haven't, they ought to," says Wiseman.

The fair manager says they've done everything they can to get rid of mosquitoes. But just to be on the safe side, if you're planning to go to the fair, you should wear mosquito repellent. A long sleeved shirt and long pants are also a good idea. Extended Web Coverage

West Nile virus Facts

  • The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals.

  • The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in1937.

  • The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people.

How is the West Nile virus Spread?

  • The virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

  • A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus.

  • West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, and no evidence indicates the virus can be spread directly from birds to humans.

  • Only a small population of mosquitoes are likely to be infected and most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.

  • 1 in 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick.

  • 1 in 100-150 who get sick become seriously ill.

  • 3 to 15 percent of those seriously ill die.

Symptoms of the Virus

  • The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 6 days after exposure. People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of severe illness.

  • Milder symptoms include: Slight fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands and/or sometimes a skin rash.

  • Severe symptoms include: High fever, intense headache, stiff neck, and/or confusion.

Protecting Yourself

  • Control mosquitoes from breeding around your home. Remove standing water from any item or area that can hold water. Standing water is a perfect breeding place for mosquitoes.

  • Wear long and light colored clothing.

  • Use insect repellent products with no ore than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.

  • Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face; spray on clothing, as well. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin and clothing.

  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

  • Stay inside at dawn and dusk because that is when mosquitoes are most active.

Source: contributed to this report