West Nile virus has struck in Colorado earlier than usual this year.
Health officials have confirmed a case in Larimer County. They say the patient, a Loveland woman, likely contracted the virus close to home.
“She doesn’t have a recent travel history outside of Colorado,” said Katie O’Donnell, of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.
O’Donnell said the patient was not hospitalized.
When asked if it was rare for West Nile to strike this early, O’Donnell replied, “We don’t normally see West Nile until July. Last year, we didn’t see our first case until August.”
Lab Surveillance Technicians at Colorado Mosquito Control are setting mosquito traps in Larimer, Weld and Adams Counties.
Surveillance Technician Courtney Brown placed a trap just east of the Budweiser Events Center on Wednesday.
She said the trap contains a canister of dry ice, which gives off carbon dioxide.
Mosquitoes sense that, she said, and think they’ve found some prey.
Brown said each trap also contains a small light.
“They’re going to be attracted to the light, and underneath there’s going to be a weak 6 volt fan that sucks them down into the net,” Brown said.
The lab techs are also collecting larvae samples from area ponds and other pools of water.
The mosquitoes and larvae are then taken to the lab for identification.
“It’s important to know which species are where,” said “Doc” Weissmann, Surveillance and Lab Manager at Colorado Mosquito Control.
Weissmann said they want to locate Culex mosquitoes, the kind the carry West Nile, so they’ll know whether to treat the water with a larvicide.
He said only five percent of the samples tested so far are Culex.
“That’s typical,” he said. "Most of the ones we’re finding are flood water (nuisance) mosquitoes. It’s too soon for a large West Nile outbreak. It wouldn’t be happening right now.”
When asked if the early case of West Nile might be a harbinger of what’s to come, Weissmann said if he knew that, he’d be in a different business.
“You can’t predict what’s going to happen,” he said.
Both Weissmann and O’Donnell say the first case of West Nile is a reminder that mosquito season has arrived and you need to take precautions.
How to protect yourself
- Use a repellent containing deet
- Remove standing water
- Avoid being outdoors from dusk to dawn
- Wear long sleeve shirts and slacks if you must be outside