Summit poor location for the mosquito that carries West Nile virus |

Summit poor location for the mosquito that carries West Nile virus

BRECKENRIDGE – Summit County’s high-elevation climate is not friendly to the type of mosquito that carries the West Nile virus expected to break out elsewhere in Colorado this summer.

While county officials will look for the mosquito Culex tarsalis this summer, Environmental Health director Jim Rada does not expect it to turn up.

The greater West Nile virus danger to county citizens will be when they travel the state, Rada said.

“I feel reasonably confident at this point in time we will not see the West Nile virus in the county,” Rada told the Board of County Commissioners Monday.

Rada said the disease could still appear, despite the climate issue and preventive measures. He noted, however, that a mosquito control company working in the Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne areas the last three years has not trapped “a single Culex” mosquito.

Rada said he plans a public education campaign, working with the Summit Daily News and other media, to alert the public to West Nile issues. Rada expects a lot of questions from locals once the virus hits the Front Range and the Denver media pick up the story.

West Nile virus first appeared in the U.S. in 1999 in New York and has worked its way West. It hit Colorado last summer. The virus has long been present in Africa, West Asia and the Middle East.

Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will not get sick. Others, especially people older than 50, may incur fever, headache, body ache and possibly a skin rash and swollen lymph glands, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

In extreme cases, the virus can cause high fever, severe headaches, stupor, coma, tremors, muscle weakness or convulsions. It also can lead to encephalitis and/or meningitis and be fatal.

West Nile virus is carried long distance by birds and spread locally by mosquitoes, according to the health department.

Humans can be infected as well as animals, primarily birds and horses.

Dead birds of the corvid family – crows, magpies, ravens and jays – are a first possible sign of trouble.

Summit County Animal Control should be contacted if these birds start to turn up dead. Animal Control also will be working with suspected cases of the virus in horses.

State epidemiologist John Pape said people should put a suspect bird in a plastic bag by shovel or using gloves. The suspect bird should be kept cool. Birds dead more than 48 hours won’t be tested.

People can prevent mosquitoes on their property by eliminating all sources of standing water. Residents who have bird baths should change water at least once a week.

Mosquito repellent with DEET is recommended, but children should use products with 10 percent or less of DEET.

Pape said the Culex mosquito feeds the couple of hours around dawn and dusk, and that people should limit activity or take precautions, especially in those time frames.

Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants are recommended and people should apply repellent to exposed skin.

More information on West Nile can be found at the state’s Web site.

Jim Pokrandt can be reached at

(970) 668-3998, ext. 227, or

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