An unwelcome guest could be returning to southern Colorado this summer: West Nile virus.
Last summer, 67 people in Colorado died of the mosquito-borne illness. That was the highest number in the United States. Of those, one was in El Paso County, and six were in Pueblo County
Now, the El Paso County Health Department is doing what it can to prepare Coloradans for this year's West Nile season. Namely, they're urging people to remember the three P's: prevention, personal health, and personal property.
Officials say West Nile is still an emerging disease, and it's possible for people to take steps to prevent its spread.
Mosquito larvae have already been found in El Paso County this year. That means soon, they'll be looking for places to breed, perhaps in your backyard.
There are several things you can do to keep your home safe. First and foremost, prevent the mosquitoes from breeding by eliminating any standing water around your home. That means anywhere water can collect like trash can lids, the bases of flower pots, or tire swings. Secondly, make sure screens are fit tightly on your windows and doors. And third, make sure your rain gutters drain properly.
Parents can also keep children safe ty putting netting on their strollers and insect repellant with DEET on their bodies.
For more information about how to protect yourself and your family from West Nile Virus, call this toll free number 1-877-462-2911. You can also get online information by CLICK HERE.
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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.
- 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: www.vdh.state.va.us contributed to this report