There have now been five documented cases of humans contracting West Nile virus from infected mosquitoes this year in Larimer County, and two people have been hospitalized.
Mike Doyle, a Larimer County Department of Health and Environment official, describes the effects of the virus succinctly: “People feel like they have been hit by a truck.”
According to Doyle there have been mosquitoes trapped in the Old Town area, north of City Park, in southwest Fort Collins and in various locations throughout the city.
Between two and 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, a person can expect to experience lightheadedness, dehydration, dizziness and develop a rash on the trunk of their body with the milder form of the virus.
The carrying species of mosquito tends to actively feed most heavily during the hour and a half after dusk and the hour just before dawn.
Experts suggest wearing long-sleeved clothes or insect repellent if going out during these hours.
The more serious cases can develop into West Nile meningitis, encephalitis, and poliomyelitis with symptoms including confusion, delirium, tremors, convulsions, a severe headache, profound muscle weakness or paralysis and coma, according to the county Web site.
The City of Fort Collins has not contracted Colorado Mosquito Control, a large-scale mosquito control contractor, since 2004 because the risk index of collected mosquitoes carrying West Nile in Larimer County has not reached a threshold that the City of Fort Collins and the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment deem necessary for spraying.
So much of the efforts that go into West Nile prevention fall squarely on the shoulders of the individual, health experts said.
The species of mosquito that carry the virus, Culex tarsalis and Culex pipiens, tend to lay their eggs in damp areas with standing water and foliage.
According to Jessica Shermer, of Colorado Mosquito Control, even the standing water that accumulates in empty beer cans in a garbage bin with leaves surrounding it can be enough for Culex pipens to lay their eggs and develop “hotspots” of infected mosquito feeding. So to prevent the next generation of infected mosquitoes from flourishing, it’s important to drain any standing water that may have accumulated in and around empty cans, flower pots, and other places.
Staff writer Andrew Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org