West Nile

Mar 072004
Authors: Leigh Pogue

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

underneath bridges.

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

breeding areas.

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.”

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