On the lookout for West Nile virus
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” As summer temperatures rise, city health officials are monitoring the local mosquito population and urging caution about West Nile virus.
Though there have been no reported cases of West Nile virus in Aspen, city crews recently have begun using traps to collect local mosquitos to look for the type that carries the disease, according to C.J. Oliver, senior environmental health specialist with the city.
Health officials in low-lying areas of Colorado have been trapping mosquitos since May, but because of Aspen’s cooler climate, local crews can wait until later in the summer, Oliver said.
So far, mosquito traps have been relatively empty.
“We’re in good shape now,” Oliver said. “While we have not experienced human cases of West Nile in the valley, it’s important to be watchful for signs of the virus and to be prepared in the event of its appearance.”
In five years of collecting mosquitoes, crews have only found one Culex mosquito, the species that carries the virus. Still, West Nile virus is serious, causing flu-like symptoms and occasionally meningitis or encephalitis.
And Oliver warned locals headed for warmer parts to be cautious.
“So many of us are traveling and going places on the weekend,” he said, referring to low-lying desert areas and the Front Range, where West Nile is more prevalent.
“You’re not immune somewhere else,” he added.
The disease is transmitted only via a bite from an infected mosquito; it is not communicable from human-to-human, Oliver said.
City of Aspen Environmental Health Department officials recommend caution in the evening hours and suggest covering up in long pants and long sleeves or wearing a repellent.
Health department staff members are handing out free samples of bug repellent, from moist towelettes soaked in DEET to a chemical-free spray, at their offices on the second floor of Aspen City Hall, 130 S. Galena St.
Oliver also recommends draining any standing water near homes. Everything from buckets and flowerpots to kiddie pools and patio furniture covers can become breeding grounds for mosquitos, and thus increase the chance of West Nile virus, he said.
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