Virus returns to county
to avoid mosquitoes
The Montezuma County Health Department has confirmed that at least one person in the county has contracted the West Nile virus this season.
Director Lori Cooper reported that a state lab verified the case Thursday morning, and said another person with symptoms of the disease is being tested as well. West Nile is passed to humans from infected mosquitoes.
“We know it is here, and one case has been lab confirmed,” Cooper said. “People need to be careful with mosquitoes, especially in the morning and evenings when they’re more active.”
The health department urges visitors and residents to take thorough precautions against mosquito exposure by wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors, applying bug repellent, avoiding mosquito habitat such as standing water, and being aware of symptoms.
“People have become complacent with West Nile, so we need a reminder to take precautions,” Cooper said. “The disease has been around for 10 years.”
Symptoms are described as flu like, and include headache, body aches, stiff neck, confusion, low energy and fever. West Nile is not contagious under normal daily contact. People over 50 are more at risk of the disease.
West Nile virus has emerged in recent years in temperate regions of the U.S., presenting a threat to human, equine, and animal health.
Its less severe forms cause fever and meningitis and are considered medical emergencies because of the risk of neurological damage.
The most serious manifestation of the infection is fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in humans and horses, as well as mortality in certain domestic and wild birds.
The last time the disease was confirmed in Montezuma County was in 2007, when four people contracted the virus.
Over the years, there have likely been more cases of West Nile that were not reported or lab confirmed.
“People have the symptoms, go to the doctor, they say it is probably West Nile and they treat the symptoms, which is really all you can do,” Cooper said. “That is why prevention is so important; once you get the disease, it is too late.”
In 2012, five people died in Colorado of West Nile virus including one person in La Plata county.
The health department will be issuing education and prevention information to the public in the coming days.
“I don’t think we need to panic, but we need to be proactive and prevent exposure to mosquitoes,” said public health nurse Lauri Wood. “If you have been exposed to a lot of mosquitoes and have flu-like systems, then go to your doctor and let them know that.”