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County attacks West Nile virus

Danie Harrelson

— Routt County will take precautions this winter to hinder future occurrences of the West Nile Virus in Northwest Colorado, county health officials said Monday.

The virus was identified Friday in Craig, after blood samples taken from a dead horse tested positive for the virus. Public health officials were alerted Friday afternoon.

The finding marked the second case of West Nile on the Western Slope since its arrival in Colorado earlier this year. The first case involved two dead starlings found in Mesa County.

Mike Zopf, director of the county Environmental Health Department, offered a threefold plan for protecting residents and animals from the West Nile virus next summer.

The county must first educate the public about the virus, he said. That means alerting people to signs and symptoms and common-sense ways to prevent the disease’s spread, he added.

Zopf said local health care providers are well informed about the disease.

The county must secondly identify and destroy mosquito habitats, he said. Thirdly, mosquito larvae must be killed before they develop into potential carriers, he said.

John Pape, the state Department of Health and Environment epidemiologist who is heading Colorado’s investigation into the West Nile virus, recently spoke with Zopf about the virus’ presence in Northwest Colorado.

Zopf said Pape told him the recent finding in Moffat County was expected, given the recent spread of the illness in the United States.

“Additional cases will be expected,” Zopf said. “All we can do is reduce habitat and protect ourselves and keep close watch on illnesses that do occur.”

Several calls about dead birds have come in to the county.

Those birds will be submitted to the state lab for analysis, Zopf said.

Susan Bowler, public health nurse manager with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, encouraged people to take measures to protect themselves.

“Prevention is really important,” she said.

Although changing seasons will eventually kill off mosquitoes, she said, the insect will return next summer and pose the same threat.

Mosquito repellant, protective clothing and limited outside activity during mosquitoes’ prime feeding times at dusk and dawn lessen the chances of infection, she said.

Bowler suggested a trip to the hospital for people who experience flu-like symptoms within the next few weeks.

But future flu-like symptoms as colder weather approaches are likely not an indication of the West Nile virus, she said.


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