West Nile virus is the focus of Colorado’s National Public Health Week | SummitDaily.com

West Nile virus is the focus of Colorado’s National Public Health Week

DENVER – West Nile virus isn’t expected to be a serious threat in Summit County this summer, but Colorado health officials want people to be prepared.

The Colorado Observance of 2003 National Public Health Week, which kicked off Monday and runs through today, focuses on West Nile virus.

The theme for the week is, “Fight the Bite! Join the “Swat Team’ Against West Nile Virus.”

The state-provided informational materials on West Nile virus will be available this summer and fall at Summit County Government facilities. The informational materials, which are printed in both English and Spanish, include laminated wallet cards, posters and brochures.

A Web site, http://www.fightthebitecolorado.com, has also been established to serve as a source of information on the virus and on how to combat it. The Web site also contains instructional materials that can be downloaded and used by teachers.

The virus, first identified in the United States in 1999 in New York City, was confirmed in Colorado in mid-August last year.

It is carried by mosquitoes, which take blood meals from infected birds and then pass the disease on to humans when they bite. Most people who contract the virus do not even know they have it.

“A few people will suffer mild symptoms, while an even smaller number will exhibit a more serious illness, which will include a stiff neck, high fever or severe headache,” said Summit County public health director Jim Rada. “People who experience the more severe symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately.”

People over the age of 50, the age group most likely to die from the disease, should be particularly careful about taking precautions.

Among those precautions:

– Mosquito breeding places should be removed by cleaning out gutters and by removing old tires and any other items on their property that can collect water.

– Window and door screens should be checked to make sure they are in good condition and that all holes are repaired.

– When mosquito season actually arrives in mid-summer, people should begin wearing repellent, shirts with long sleeves and pants to avoid mosquito bites, and they should begin to avoid going outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are feeding.

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