Aug 222002
Authors: Christopher J. Ortiz

Experts say the West Nile Virus, whose slow spread across the nation has been documented in many a newscast, poses little danger to students.

Cases of the virus have sprung up in the United States this summer in several states resulting in at least 12 deaths, according to a story by MSNBC. Recently, there have been several confirmed animal cases of the virus in Wyoming and Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. As of Aug. 15, three horses and a single crow in Colorado have tested positive, but so far there have been no reported human cases in the state.

Cindy Parmenter, a public relations spokesperson for the department of public health, said young college students are not in any real danger from the virus.

“Older people are more prone to the virus because of their weaker immune systems,” she said. “The majority of people who acquire the virus will not become ill.”

CSU students do not seem to be too concerned with the virus.

“If there were more (infections) in the area, I think I would (take precautions),” said junior Christopher Holmes, an English major. He added the administration should place signs around the lagoon or use the university’s Student FYI mailing list to inform students.

June Greist, a spokesperson for CSU said the university has posted news alerts on CSU’s website since June to inform students of any dangers.

“It’s not something that I’m afraid of but maybe I should be,” said Kate Weiling, sociology major, as she was spending time outside with her dog splashing in the lagoon on CSU’s disc golf course. “Its not really something I’m worried about at this point,” she added.

“I think it is something that should be discussed, people should be aware about but I don’t think it’s that big of a concern,” said Ashley Wituington, an open option sophomore. “I think if people are just aware then they can make their own decisions on what precautions they should take,” she continued.

Most people who contract the virus have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they occur between 5 to 15 days after being exposed.

The less severe disease that is caused by West Nile Virus is Viral Fever Syndrome, which causes fever, headache, and malaise. These symptoms last for about 2-7 days.

The more severe and often deadly disease is Encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Symptoms are a sudden onset of fever and a headache, and then may progress to a stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, and coma. Severe infections can result in brain damage or death. This form tends to occur in adults 50 years of age or older.

West Nile was first identified in the United States in 1999. It is classified as a mosquito borne virus that causes an inflammation in the brain called encephalitis. The mosquitoes obtain the virus from birds and pass it along to birds, humans, and other animals.

Humans and other animals do not carry enough viruses in their blood to be transmitted to other animals or humans.

Symptoms in horses include listlessness, stumbling, incoordination, weakness of the limbs, partial paralysis, and death.

Other domestic animals, such as dogs and cats may be exposed to the virus but do not seem to become ill from it.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website listed several tips to prevent or limit exposure to the virus.

* Limit outside activity around dawn and dusk when the mosquitoes feed.

* Where protective clothing such as light-weight pants and long sleeved shirts when outside

* Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Repellents with DEET are effective but should be used sparingly. Those with less then 10% DEET should be used in children.

* Remove any potential water sources in which mosquitoes can breed (i.e. standing water).

* Stable horses during peak hours of mosquito activity (dawn and dusk).

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