NewsCovering Colorado


El Paso County confirms first human case of West Nile virus this year

The virus is seen in humans in Colorado mostly in August and September
Posted at 10:53 PM, Aug 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-02 07:52:51-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — El Paso County has confirmed the first human case of West Nile virus so far this year. The virus is seen in humans in Colorado mostly in August and September.

According to experts, the heavy rainfall this year means a lot of standing water can be found in people’s yards or around homes and neighborhoods. In turn, mosquito populations are also at high levels in some areas across the state, as mosquitoes lay eggs in bodies of standing water.

“The mosquito counts are extremely high, and so we're sort of in the perfect storm, another storm for people to be at risk to get sick from West Nile,” said Burnadette Albanese.

Albanese is the co-medical director is with El Paso County Public Health. She said mosquitoes become infected with West Nile virus when they feed on infected birds, and then mosquitoes spread the disease to people.

“Then you're at risk for having the infection take hold, and then you're at risk for potentially getting sick,” said Faris.

Albanese said about one in five people infected will get flu-like symptoms within two to 14 days of getting West Nile virus, but most people don’t have any symptoms at all. Those 60 and older are also at greater risk for serious illness.

According to the El Paso County Public Health Department, last year, there were no cases of the virus in El Paso County, and there were two in 2021. Last year, Colorado also reported 20 deaths from the virus.

“Last year in 2022, we had 206 cases of West Nile virus reported in people around the state,” said Albanese. “So we're just in the beginning of this.”

That's why Albanese encouraging people to take action and avoid mosquito bites if they can.

Here’s what El Paso County Public Health recommends you do to protect yourself against West Nile virus:

  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent, such as DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. The effectiveness of non-EPA registered insect repellents is unknown, including some natural repellents. 
  • Limit time outdoors during the times of day when mosquitoes are most active, typically around dusk and dawn.   
  • Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants, especially when outdoors around dusk and dawn.  
  • Use screens on windows and doors. Repair holes in screens to keep mosquitoes outdoors. 
  • Frequently drain standing water from areas around the house such as bird baths, portable pools, tires, planters, pet water dishes, and children’s swimming pools. Mosquitoes can lay eggs and grow in standing water. 
  • Treat standing water—such as ponds, ditches, clogged rain gutters, flowerpots, plant saucers, puddles, and buckets—with larvicide "doughnuts," which can be purchased at hardware stores. Larvicide doughnuts use a naturally occurring type of bacteria to control mosquitoes. 

To learn more about West Nile virus, click here.

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