Aug 192011
 
Authors: Allison Knaus

After a streak of temperatures in the 90s and monsoon rains throughout July, mosquito testing in Colorado has found an increase in total numbers of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes –– those capable of transmitting West Nile virus.

While officials continue to monitor mosquito sites, only one sample taken has come back positive with WNV from Weld County.

According to the Boulder County Health Department, a 47-year-old woman from Longmont has been confirmed as the first human case of the virus for the 2011 season. After she reported becoming ill on July 4, she developed a severe headache, body aches and fatigue. She was not hospitalized and her symptoms have since improved, officials said.

As mosquito totals continue to grow from week-to-week, mostly with flood-water mosquitoes –– an aggressive but non disease-carrying type –– the next weeks will be crucial in detection of WNV, explained Dr. Chester Moore, a professor in the Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology department at CSU.

“The number of Culex tarsalis continues to grow, so it’s certainly possible that things could change as early as next week,” he said.

However, testing in northern Colorado has yet to detect any positive pools of the WNV-carrying mosquitoes, explained Mike Calhoon, the City of Fort Collins project manager for the West Nile virus mitigation program.

“Being right in the heart of mosquito season, we are well overdue for positive-testing,” he said.
Officials suggest that heavy mountain runoff into the Poudre River and other bodies of water throughout the state have delayed the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes throughout the month of July.

“It’s surprising we haven’t seen any infected Culex, but just because we haven’t found them doesn’t mean they aren’t out there,” said Jessica Schurich, the operations manager for the northern Front Range branch of Colorado Mosquito Control.

Now more than ever, officials are urging people to be aware of WNV and take the necessary precautions to prevent being bitten.

“It’s really important that people know that the virus exists and it’s only a matter of time before positives start showing up,” Schurich said.

As noted by the Boulder County Public Health Department, while most infections of WNV are mild, the more serious infections can cause inflammation of the brain or meningitis, loss of vision, paralysis, coma, tremors, convulsions and death.

Symptoms of WNV include fever, extreme fatigue, headache, body aches and occasionally can also include skin rashes and swollen lymph nodes. Generally, symptoms appear three to 14 days after being bitten by a mosquito. People who experience these symptoms should consult their doctors or local community health clinics.

_Staff writer Allison Knaus can be reached at news@collegian.com. _

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