Mosquito season has arrived so it is again time to “Fight the Bite.” West Nile virus is a disease that can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. In 2009 there were 102 verified human cases of West Nile virus in Colorado with three resulting in death. This is a 44% increase in the number of cases from 2008 and the number of deaths tripled. Seven of the reported cases were in Otero County, five in Prowers County, and two in Pueblo County. None of the deaths occurred in southeast Colorado.
There is no human vaccine yet available for West Nile virus so the best way to avoid getting the disease is to protect yourself against mosquitoes.
· Avoid being outdoors at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
· If outdoors, use insect repellent containing DEET on a regular basis.
· Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors.
· Keep doors and windows closed and/or properly screened to keep mosquitoes out.
· Repair or replace torn or damaged screens.
· Remove standing water in ponds, ditches, clogged house and street gutters, flower pots, tires, cans, etc. An inch of standing water is all mosquitoes need to lay eggs. Any item that collects water around your home and yard can be a mosquito nursery.
· Trim shrubbery and remove garden debris.
· Empty water in birdbaths and wading pools every week.
· Stock ornamental ponds and fountains with fish that eat mosquito larvae or use BTI mosquito “dunks” that are available in home and garden stores.
· Prevent standing water by not overwatering lawns, gardens, and agricultural fields.
· Treat livestock tanks with BTI.
· The water of animal waste lagoons is usually heavily laden with organic matter which might affect larval development. In some situations, however, mosquito larvae can develop in great numbers in these places so it is important to closely monitor for them. If mosquito larvae are present in the lagoons a control program should be implemented.
Every property owner is responsible for doing their part in preventing mosquito development. This includes business owners, home owners, government entities, farm and ranch owners, etc.
It is very rare to catch the West Nile virus and most people, when bitten by an infected mosquito, will not become sick or will only have flu-like symptoms. Some individuals, however, will become seriously ill and can suffer permanent disabilities and even death.
Signs of illness usually appear 3 to 14 days after being bitten. People who become ill may have a flu-like illness, including fever, lethargy, severe headaches, muscle aches, and muscle weakness. Some have a rash, swollen lymph glands, and vomiting. West Nile virus may last up to two weeks or much longer for the more serious forms of the illness.
West Nile virus may also cause encephalitis, meningitis, or paralysis. Initial symptoms of these forms may include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, muscle weakness and tremors, mental confusion, convulsions, and coma. These severe infections can result in brain damage, hearing loss, movement difficulties, vision changes, permanent paralysis, or death. People with any of the symptoms listed must seek medical attention immediately.
Be proactive and “Fight the Bite” by eliminating mosquito breeding areas and always remembering to wear insect repellant when you are outdoors!
"Fight the Bite" is a West Nile virus prevention and education campaign brought to you by Colorado's state and local health departments
National Pesticide Information Center - Choosing and Using Insect Repellents