Jul 202004
Authors: J.J. Babb

As of Tuesday six individuals in Larimer County had confirmed

cases of the West Nile virus, according to the Larimer County

Department of Health and Environment.

Last year nine individuals in Larimer County died from West Nile

virus, 63 suffered from the most serious forms of the illnesses

(encephalitis or meningitis) and 546 individuals reported and had

confirmed cases of the virus last year.

“I figure there were close to 10,000 people in our county that

got infected and we figure up to 80 percent never got sick,” said

Ann Watson, Larimer County health education supervisor.

While only six individuals have been infected this year, Watson

reports cases of individuals infected last year having a

reoccurrence of symptoms this summer.

Although symptoms may vary somewhat due to the fact that West

Nile is a virus, Watson lists the most common symptoms as extreme

muscle aches, headache, fever, vomiting or extreme eye pain.

“Anybody can be infected but people who suffer most serious

consequences are older people and people with weakened immune

systems,” Watson said.

Watson has seen cases where young teenagers have been infected

and left with permanent paralysis from the virus.

While tests may be performed to detect the virus, individuals

must be infected for more than a week for the natural antibiotics,

which fight the virus, to show up in the test.

During this waiting period, Watson suggests treating the

symptoms of West Nile virus the same as for the flu: rest and drink

plenty of fluids. The average person who became ill stayed ill for

two weeks.

Despite local mosquito spraying, individuals can lower their

personal risks to the illness by using mosquito repellent.

According to a press release by the Larimer County Department of

Health and Environment, “The most effective way to prevent mosquito

bites is to use an effective mosquito repellent containing


DEET is the common name for N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide, which is

the active ingredient in the most widely used insect repellents

applied to the skin, according to www.deet.com.

DEET has also been known to cause skin reactions on some people

and is toxic if ingested, according to the Web site and according

to a press release from the department of health and environment,

DEET should not be used on infants younger than two months old.

Since young children are at risk for infection, many parents and

day-care centers have looked at ways to avoid infection.

Mary Hamilton, executive director of the University Children’s

Center, works with 45 children at the center this summer.

To protect the children in her staff’s care, the center

maintains that children not go outside during the main time for

mosquitoes, dusk and dawn, and standing water is also eliminated

from the area.

“It’s obviously a concern with young children. It’s balancing

out the risk with the risk of DEET. We really leave it up to

parents and what they want to do,” Hamilton said.

Colorado State Parks, in partnership with the Tri-County Health

Department, the Mesa County Health Department and the Colorado

Department of Public Health and Environment, is running a public

awareness and prevention campaign called “Fight The Bite


“We want to educate the public on the West Nile virus so that

everyone can enjoy the outdoors this summer with the highest level

of personal safety. Each visitor to a state park will have an

opportunity to get the information they need to allow them to make

a personal choice to prevent infection of the West Nile virus,”

said Lyle Laverty, Colorado State Parks director, in a press


As the summer continues and outside activities prevail, Watson

suggests one thing to avoid contracting West Nile virus: “Use


For more information on West Nile Virus in Larimer County visit:




Tips for proper repellent use: (Larimer County Department of

Health and Environment)

– Your back yard or patio is not a “safe zone.” Even a brief

trip out to the barbecue or garden allows time for an infected

mosquito to bite.

– Use enough repellent to cover exposed skin or clothing. Don’t

apply repellent to skin that is under clothing. Heavy application

is not necessary to achieve protection.

– Do not apply repellent to cuts, wounds or irritated skin.

– After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and


– Do not spray aerosol or pump products in enclosed areas.

– Do not apply aerosol or pump products directly on the face.

Spray hands and then rub them carefully over the face, avoiding the

eyes and mouth.

Guidelines for Children and Repellents

– Use products containing 10 to 30 percent DEET or less for


– Parents should apply repellent to young children to ensure

complete coverage and proper application. Avoid getting the

repellent on children’s hands or in their eyes or mouths.

– Repellents containing DEET should not be used on children two

months of age and younger. Limiting exposure to mosquitoes is best

for these infants.

– Mosquito netting products are available to fit over strollers

or baby cribs.

– Insect repellent applied to protective clothing is also


– If you will not use repellents, use alternative means of

protection. These include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long

pants and covering your face with mosquito net hoods. Cover baby

strollers or playpens with mosquito netting.

– Clothing can be sprayed with insecticides or repellents

containing Permethrin or DEET. Treated clothing can be purchased.

Such clothing will last through several launderings. Do not spray

Permethrin directly on skin. Follow product directions.

– Alternative repellants that don’t contain DEET may provide

protection, but studies have shown that these repellents don’t

provide protection for as long.

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