Last summer eight people died of West Nile virus in Larimer
County and 63 people had serious life threatening cases.
“We were one of the hardest hit counties,” said Ann Watson,
health education supervisor for the Larimer County Health
Department. “Some people described the situation like the perfect
A mild winter and a wet spring made it possible for mosquitoes
to “overwinter” and also provided perfect breeding conditions.
Because Larimer County was so highly impacted by the West Nile
virus, the county and cities within it, are starting work early to
prevent a repeat of last summer.
Programs are being initiated to monitor mosquitoes in the area
and also their larvae.
A CSU team is currently researching “overwintering” mosquitoes
to find out if they carry the West Nile virus through the
The team is headed by entomologist Chet Moore who is assisted by
Bethany Bolling and Mark Goshorn.
The team uses aspirators to suck up the mosquitoes from the
insides of abandoned buildings and storm drains, and from
Once collected, the mosquitoes are held in a lab and then
So far the team has collected 70 mosquitoes and eventually needs
to collect at least 100 if but closer to 1,000 to find one that has
West Nile, Bolling said.
“This will help us answer some questions about our local
species,” Bolling said. “If we find that they are ‘overwintering’
with the virus it could mean another outbreak this summer.”
The information that the CSU team discovers will be shared with
city and local mosquito control efforts.
In addition to gathering information, Larimer County will be
working to get information out to the people.
“Public education will be a major factor to help encourage
people to take protective measures,” Watson said.
Even though the mosquito population will not appear until April
or May at the earliest, people can begin to take steps to prevent
their chances of being bitten this summer.
Watson recommends people start with their homes to protect
“People tend to think of their homes as a safe area,” Watson
said, “But they’re not.”
To help make homes safe people should check gutters and storm
drains to ensure they are draining properly and not creating
People should also look around yards for items that can collect
water, like tin cans and old dog dishes. Finally, people should
check their screens and make sure that they are in good shape.
Once the mosquitoes are out, people should avoid being outside
during dusk and dawn. People should wear mosquito repellant with
DEET, and try to cover as much of their skin as possible with
Audrey Fisher, a junior English-education major, took
precautions last summer, but was still infected by the virus. She
was sick for three to four weeks with flu-like symptoms, headaches
and a rash.
Fisher is still seeing the effects of the virus months
“I have severe migraines every day,” Fisher said.
Fisher went to a neurologist because of her migraines and was
placed on pain-killers. According to Fisher her neurologist has
noticed people who had West Nile coming in with migraines.
“The West Nile virus can affect everyone,” Watson said. “The
main message is that you could be the one who gets sick and you
maybe could have prevented it.”