Extension Connection: Mosquito bites not an insect-sized matter

It's time again to be diligent about applying insect repellant, as state health officials have reported two deaths linked to the West Nile Virus this year.

A 63-year-old who became ill around July 11 died Aug. 2. A 77-year-old who became ill July 26 died Aug. 4. Both lived in Denver. Past trends suggest heat and rain create a great deal of mosquito activity, particularly like what we have been seeing lately in northern Colorado.

According to Chester G. Moore, a professor and researcher with the Colorado State University Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, "The main reason for concern this year is that there are more mosquitoes of the species that transmit West Nile Virus showing up in the traps run by Colorado Mosquito Control and by our group here at CSU. Also, the recent hot weather - which is often associated with increased WNV transmission - is an added cause for concern."

Who should be concerned about West Nile Virus?

Everyone, but especially golfers, hikers, boaters, bikers, campers, fisherman, gardeners, walkers, children and outdoor workers, among others.

During the next few weeks, take special precautions against mosquito bites.

Be prepared: Bring insect repellent that contains DEET, protective clothing, mosquito netting and utilize the shelter of your car or a screened tent. West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes also are present at high altitude, so prevent bites with proper clothing and insect repellent. Always apply sunscreen before you apply DEET.

Guidelines for hunters handling wild animals

Hunters should follow the usual precautions when handling wild animals. Wear gloves when handling and cleaning animals to prevent blood exposure to bare hands, and meat should be cooked thoroughly before eating.

According to state epidemiologist John Pape, only about one-fourth of all West Nile cases are reported. For every person who contracts the most severe form of West Nile Virus (life-threatening brain swelling called meningitis and encephalitis) state health officials estimate there are 140 others infected with the disease.

Of those 140 cases, 20 percent will become ill with symptoms and 80 percent won't get sick or have any symptoms at all.

On July 13, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a warning to Colorado residents and visitors to take precautions against West Nile Virus. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and may be passed to humans and animals - mostly birds and horses. Surveillance systems monitoring West Nile Virus activity are showing Culex mosquito populations are at or above the counts observed at the same time in 2003, when Colorado experienced a large West Nile Virus outbreak. Mosquitoes infected with the West Nile Virus have been found in at least 18 counties, including Larimer. Health officials expect more human cases because they began discovering infected mosquitoes earlier than usual.

"Four D's" to protect against West Nile Virus

1. Dawn/dusk - Be sure to use protection or avoid being outside during these times of the day, when mosquitoes are most active.

2. Dress - Wear loose fitting, lightweight long sleeves and pants when you're outside. For extra protection, spray thin clothing with insect repellent.

3. DEET - Whenever you're outdoors, use an insect repellent with DEET (N, N-diethylm-toluamide) or another repellent approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as products containing picaridin and lemon of eucalyptus oil.

4. Drain - Get rid of standing water in your backyard and neighborhood. Drain any standing water in old tires, flowerpots and clogged rain gutters. These are mosquito-breeding sites. Change the water in birdbaths at least weekly.

The symptoms of West Nile Virus

• Usually appear 3 to 14 days after exposure

• People older than 50 are most vulnerable

• Most mild symptoms include: fever, headache, body aches, neck stiffness, muscles weakness and tremors, disorientation, convulsions, coma and sometimes skin rashes or swollen lymph nodes

• Serious symptoms include: swelling of the brain and/or meningitis (swelling of the brain's lining). Seek medical attention immediately.

CSU resources

• CSU-produced CDC public service announcement video at www.csutv.colostate.edu/video/cdc.wmv.

• CSU Extension fact sheets, tip sheets and related links on West Nile Virus are available at www.ext.colostate.edu/westnile/reslist.html.

• Colorado State University Hartshorn Health Services, "Ask Pat," information on West Nile Virus is located at http://askpat.colostate.edu/viewht.cfm?qid=23.

• Professor Chester G. Moore in the CSU Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology conducts research on the "big picture" of vector-borne disease transmission (West Nile Virus, plague, and Lyme disease). Visit Moore online and learn more about his research and publications at www.cvmbs.colostate.edu/mip/people/faculty/moore.htm.

For more information, contact Elisa Shackelton at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, or Grady Wilson, Moffat County Pest Supervisor, at 824-9168.

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