Fighting off bloodsuckers

Jun 292010
Authors: Matt Miller

As this year’s mosquito season approaches, city officials, CSU professors and health workers are preparing to educate and protect the community from the West Nile Virus.

The severity of West Nile outbreaks fluctuates from year to year and is based on weather patterns, said microbiology professor Chet Moore. 

Although it’s too early to tell what this season will look like, a wet spring and hot dry summer creates the best conditions, he said. 

“Mosquitoes are cold blooded,” Moore said. “If it’s cold everything slows down.”

His department has finished testing on the first batch of mosquitoes and none have tested positive.

Moore expects to see a lot of virus activity around July 4th.

Last year, Larimer County saw 25 cases of West Nile and Colorado saw a total of 102, said Crew Chief with Parks Division Mike Calhoon.

“When the Poudre River drops it leaves pools of standing water, and those sites are perfect for larva production,” Calhoon said.

His department has worked to control the spread of the virus since it first popped up in Colorado in 2003.

“We’re working to control it the best we can,” Calhoon said. “Our philosophy is to beat them out of the water.”

The West Nile Program does public education and public service announcements to inform Coloradans on how to prevent getting bitten. They also map all sights with larva in town and treat those sights with a mosquito-specific larvicide called BTi.

The program is revised every three years to ensure that it’s successful.

“We’re always trying to adjust it for the better,” Calhoon said.

The division is also working closely with the Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

This year, Calhoon’s department will capture the flying insects, mark them, set them free and recapture them in an attempt to gauge how far they will fly to feed on humans.

“Now we will have solid data for how far they are traveling so we can focus our larva treatment,” Calhoon said.

The CSU health network is also working hard to educate students and provide any information and medical help they can offer.

“We can see any student concerned and draw their blood to test,” said Director of Medical Services Dr. Laurie Elwyn.

She added that they usually do a diagnosis based on clinical criteria rather than the blood test.

“One of the most important things about West Nile is prevention,” Elwyn said.

The best steps to avoiding mosquito contact is avoid outdoor activities from sundown to midnight, check doors and windows so the bugs can’t get in, wear long sleeves and pants, and check yards for any standing water the could serve as ideal breeding ground.

Since West Nile is a viral infection there is no treatment, but most people who have it recover fine, Elwyn said.

The symptoms are flu like, including high fever, and aches and pains.

Staff Writer Matt Miller can be reached at

Steps to prevent West Nile infection

1. Avoid outdoor activities from sundown to midnight.
2. Check windows and doors to ensure that mosquitoes can’t get in.
3. Wear long sleeves and pants and spray on repellent, even on clothes.
4. Check yards for any standing water in which larva could spawn and report it to the city.

To learn more about West Nile, visit:

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