Jefferson County Public Health, in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, has confirmed the first human case of West Nile virus for the 2009 Colorado season. The case was reported from Jefferson County, and the patient is recovering at home.
Jim Dale, MPH, DVM, Director of JCPH Environmental Health Services explained, “West Nile virus season is here and everyone should take precautions. Eliminating mosquito breeding grounds in back yards, wearing insect repellent and using other methods to avoid mosquito bites when outdoors can help minimize risk of infection.”
The cooperative surveillance conducted by state and local health departments began on June 1, 2009, and has shown Culex mosquito populations are still low but increasing. Historically, populations of Culex mosquitoes, which transmit West Nile virus, start to rapidly increase this time of year as temperatures begin to rise.
Individuals can reduce the number of mosquitoes by cleaning out gutters and other places around their homes where there are pools of standing water that are good breeding places for mosquitoes. Such breeding grounds include:
- empty flowerpots;
- plastic swimming pools or old tires;
- Change the water weekly, at least, in a birdbath;
- Repair torn window and door screens.
Additional precautions to take against West Nile virus include:
- Use precautions or avoid outdoor activities, such as gardening, at dawn and after dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- If outside at dawn or after dusk, cover up by wearing light, loose-fitting pants and long-sleeved shirts, shoes and socks.
- Use approved mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
- DEET products generally provide the longest protection.
- Other repellents work, but must be applied more frequently.
- Follow the product label for correct use.
- Products with 10 percent or less DEET are recommended for children.
Public health officials advise anyone who finds a dead bird to report the location to the Colorado Health Emergency Line for the Public (CoHELP) at 1-877-462-2911. Mosquitoes feed on infected birds and then pass on the virus to humans. In addition to taking reports of dead bird locations, staff can answer most questions about West Nile virus. The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Control Center operates the hotline under contract with the Department of Public Health and Environment.
Prevention tips and additional information about West Nile virus is available online at www.FightTheBiteColorado.com.
For more information, call the Jefferson County Public Health Department's Zoonoses Program at 303-271-5700 or visit the JCPH Web site.