Rain Washes Out West Nile Virus Attack

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The West Nile virus caused more than 60 deaths in Colorado last year. Now our recent heavy rains are delaying the fight against it.

El Paso County has been fighting the West Nile virus by dropping larvicide tablets down storm drains and in wet areas to kill the mosquito larvae. But last week's storms washed all that larvicide away. So on Monday, crews started dropping more tablets.

Dr. Tom Wood is with the El Paso County Health Department. He says the timing is bad because the mosquitoes just started coming out in force last week. "All the larvicide we put out---every bit is gone. So we're starting all over again. So we'll be out in the neighborhoods and out and around," says Wood.

Dr. Wood says they'll have to find the money to pay for this newest round of tablet treatments.

So far, not one bird has tested positive for the virus and no one in the county has come down with it, either. But the health department warns that people still need to be careful outdoors. Dr. Wood says it wasn't until late July last year when the first human case of West Nile was confirmed in El Paso County.

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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.

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: www.vdh.state.va.us contributed to this report