The COVID-19 virus is grabbing most of the health headlines nowadays, but there is another virus present in Colorado that should be of concern to a particular group of people.

West Nile in Colorado

It is not uncommon to find the West Nile Virus in Colorado, though it's not necessarily widespread. Earlier this summer, WNV-positive mosquitoes were detected in several Colorado counties including Delta, Adams, Boulder, Denver, Larimer, and Weld. One case was reported in Delta County and that person is reportedly recovering.  In 2020, Colorado reported 35 human cases of West Nile, including one death.

What is West Nile Virus?

The CDC says West Nile Virus is the number one cause of mosquito-borne disease in the United States, usually spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. There are no vaccines for West Nile and there is no medication to treat people who contract it.

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How Does West Nile Affect Humans?

Most people who contract West Nile experience no symptoms. The CDC says about 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop symptoms like fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people who develop symptoms fully recover, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. About 1 in 150 people infected with West Nile develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system, and in some cases, the effects to the central nervous system can be permanent.

The Greatest Risk

People over the age of 60 are at greatest risk if infected. Those with certain medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and organ transplant recipients are at great risk. Recovery from severe illness can take several weeks or months and about 1 in 10 people who develop severe illness will die. Fewer than 1% of infected people will develop a serious and potentially fatal illness.

Protecting Yourself

Most human West Nile virus cases in Colorado happen in August and September, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. This is the time of year residents should be most vigilant to protect themselves. Use insect repellants when you're outdoors will help as well as wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts in areas where mosquitos are especially active.

 

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