Garfield County on alert for both swine flu and West Nile
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GARFIELD COUNTY – Area health officials announced at the end of last week that there are a total of eight confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, in Garfield County.
The virus was officially declared a “pandemic” recently by the World Health Organization, meaning only that it is present on a worldwide scale and appears not to be going away.
The latest cases all involved “young adults,” according to Jim Rada of the county’s public health agency. Three of the latest cases live in Glenwood Springs, and one in Carbondale.
“The continued local reports of H1N1 tell us that this disease is in our community and continues to be a threat to the health of our residents and guests,” said Mary Meisner, director of Garfield County Public Health. “We all need to remain vigilant in preventing this illness by continuing to use all recommended precautions against contracting or spreading the virus.”
Meisner’s agency continues to advise individuals to exercise precaution including avoiding close contact with ill people, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or sleeve, washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and other measures.
The agency is working with local hospitals, schools and emergency planners to monitor the activity of the virus and plan a response against the possibility the virus will re-emerge in the fall.
But aside from the H1N1 virus, said Rada, the county is now seeing signs of another endemic and potentially dangerous illness, the West Nile virus, which typically is spread by mosquitoes.
“Garfield County’s mosquito surveillance program is already detecting large numbers of mosquitoes in the area from Silt to Parachute,” the public health agency announced recently. “Although, at this time, most of these mosquitoes are not the Culex species, the primary transmitters of West Nile virus.”
The agency has been trapping Culex mosquitoes and testing them for the virus but so far has not detected it.
“People who become infected with the virus may or may not become ill,” the county health agency declared in a written statement. “Colorado data indicates that the majority of people that become ill will have symptoms that may include fever, headache, body aches and occasionally skin rashes and swollen lymph nodes. In rare cases, West Nile virus can be fatal. In addition, West Nile virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and/or meningitis (inflammation of the brain’s lining). More severe infections may include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness or convulsions. Persons with these symptoms need to seek medical attention immediately.”
Residents are urged to report sightings of dead birds, as certain avian species are particularly susceptible to the virus, and to do what they can to reduce the amount of standing water around them to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.
Mosquito control officials can be reached at (970) 930-0018, and more information about West Nile virus is available at http://www.fightthebitecolorado.com.
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It’s that time of year — hikers and mountain bikers must be aware that seasonal closures are taking effect on multiple trails in the area today for the winter for the benefit of wildlife.