West Nile outbreak in Larimer County is the 'worst in years'

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Larimer County health officials say this year's outbreak of the West Nile virus is the worst in years.

Health officials say 30 people have been infected with virus so far this year and those numbers are expected to climb.

The virus was first reported in the United States in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

West Nile virus is a disease carried by infected Culex mosquitoes that can cause mild to severe illness.  About 75 percent of people who are infected have no symptoms, health officials said. About 25 percent will develop West Nile Fever.  Less than one percent develop the most severe neuroinvasive from, which can lead to hospitalization, critical illness, chronic disability or even death.

To protect yourself from mosquito bites and West Nile virus, the Larimer County Health Department recommends the following precautions:

-- Use a mosquito repellent that has been proven to be effective against West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes. Those containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (with active ingredient PMD, or p-menthane diol) or IR3535 are good choices.

-- Keep exposed skin covered or use a repellent when out at prime Culex mosquito-biting hours, between dusk and dawn.

-- Drain standing water in your yard or in your garden.

-- Add mosquito-eating minnows to or a mosquito "dunk" to ornamental ponds that feature still water.

-- Use netting over baby carriers and strollers

-- Keep window screens repaired.

For more tips on what you can do to prevent West Nile virus, or on repellent use, visit:http://larimer.org/health/cd/westnile.asp or call 498-6700.