West Nile Virus season peaks this month

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With West Nile Virus season at its peak, officials encourage people to remain cautious, despite a slow season for the virus.

Colorado has had 21 confirmed human cases of West Nile this year. Last year, Colorado had 291 cases, and in 2003, there were 2,947.

None of the confirmed cases have been in Moffat County or surrounding counties.

"If you're one of those cases, all the numbers don't mean much," said Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment epidemiologist John Pape.

Pape said West Nile season commonly peaks in August before it ends in late September or early October.

There has been a drop in West Nile cases from 2003 until now because the disease works in cycles, Pape said.

"A lot of factors play into whether you have a busy year or a quiet year," he said.

Weather plays a major role, Pape said, particularly wet weather.

The drop also could be the result of the virus leveling off from two years ago.

"2003 could have been an abnormally up year," Pape said.

Although the number of cases is down this year, Pape said it could climb to last year's levels before the end of the season.

Moffat County didn't have any human cases of the disease last year, but Rio Blanco County had one.

Moffat County Pest Management Supervisor Chad Sasges said the county has preformed about 180 West Nile tests on mosquitoes this summer. Each test examines between 5 and 50 mosquitoes.

Sasges said the county tests mosquitoes more than the state requires because it has equipment to perform the tests locally.

"That way, if there is a positive, we immediately know and can handle the situation," Sasges said.

The county had an extra 6,000 acres of water for mosquitoes to breed in this year because of a wet spring and flooding of the Yampa River.

Extra water from this spring has dried up for the most part, Sasges said, but he still has crews treating permanent pools with larvacide to try to keep the mosquito population down.

With migratory birds moving into the area this time of year, Sasges said it's important for people to remain aware of West Nile. Birds commonly carry the virus.

"We're not out of the threat yet," Sasges said.

After any rain shower, no matter how brief, Sasges said it's important for people to drain anything that can hold water for more than seven days.

Even a puddle the size of a cow's hoof print can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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