A La Plata County resident with West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne illness, died recently. This marks the fifth West Nile virus case in the San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) jurisdiction. SJBPH urges residents and visitors to take precautions to protect themselves and their families.
West Nile virus (WNV) is carried by mosquitoes and can be passed on to humans through bites from an infected mosquito. Those aged 60 and older and those with certain medical conditions are at greater risk for serious illness.
Most people infected with mosquito-borne viruses do not get sick or have mild symptoms. For those who have symptoms, the time between the mosquito bite and the start of symptoms can be from 2 to 14 days. In rare cases, the virus can cause a serious brain infection such as meningitis or encephalitis. These infections begin suddenly with high fever and headache and may progress to stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, and coma. Severe infections can result in permanent brain damage or death. Most deaths occur in people over 50 years of age. There is no treatment for the virus other than supportive care, and there is no vaccine to prevent it. If you think you or a family member is sick with West Nile virus, consult a health care provider.
To protect yourself:
- Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol products provide the best protection. For more information about insect repellents visit the EPA’s information webpage. Always follow label instructions.
- Limit outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks in areas where mosquitoes are active. Spray clothes with insect repellent for extra protection.
To mosquito-proof your home:
- Empty water from tires, cans, flowerpots, clogged gutters, rain barrels, birdbaths, toys, and puddles at least once every week.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors.
To learn more about the symptoms, treatments, and other information about West Nile Virus, visit SJBPH Communicable Diseases Information is also available from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Current and historic human case data for West Nile virus is also available on CDPHE’s website, which is updated at least weekly during mosquito season.