West Nile arrives in Pitkin County | AspenTimes.com

West Nile arrives in Pitkin County

Janet Urquhart

A magpie found dead near Lazy Glen subdivision last week has tested positive for West Nile Virus, prompting local health officials to step up their efforts to control mosquito populations.Matt Kuhn, West Nile specialist for Pitkin County, recovered the bird from Highway 82 and sent it to the state for testing. Thirteen birds from the county have been checked so far; 11 tested negative and one is still pending.This season’s first positive test for West Nile in a dead bird comes three days earlier than the only positive bird found last summer, according to Kuhn. A horse in Snowmass Village also tested positive last year.The latest development should not be cause for alarm, though human cases of West Nile are sometimes fatal. So far this year, 107 human cases of West Nile and one death attributed to the virus have been recorded in Colorado.”People shouldn’t panic,” Kuhn advised. “What it means is, Pitkin County has its first West Nile activity of the year.”It just kind of steps up our awareness of West Nile in the area.”Since birds travel great distances, the magpie could have picked up the virus anywhere, Kuhn noted. Just the same, health officials will be on foot today, looking for mosquito-breeding habitat in the Lazy Glen area, and probably as far downvalley as Basalt and as far upvalley as Old Snowmass, he said. Breeding areas may be treated with larvicide.Both the county and city of Aspen conduct mosquito trapping programs to look for the variety that can carry West Nile. The city will also begin looking for mosquito larvae.Residents are urged to wear an effective repellent when they’re outdoors, like one containing DEET or Bite Blocker. All standing water should be drained and the county encourages landowners to treat privately owned ponds with larvicide, available at hardware stores.If you see a dead bird, call Environmental Health specialists as soon as possible, so it can be tested for West Nile. When reporting a dead bird in the county, call Pitkin County Environmental Health at 920-5070; in the city call, Aspen Environmental Health at 920-5039. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail is janet@aspentimes.com

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