May 20th - Prepare for West Nile Virus Season...
Think it’s too early to
prepare for preventing potentially dangerous
mosquito bites? According to officials at
Larimer County Department of Health and
Environment, the answer is no.
“Local mosquito control field
technicians have already seen mosquito larvae in
Loveland-Fort Collins-area water,” said Mike
Doyle, West Nile Virus Health Educator for the
department. “With the hot weather
predicted for the next week, any areas not being
treated could produce biting mosquitoes any day
Of most concern are the Culex
larvae. As adult mosquitoes, the Culex are the
main transmitters of West Nile Virus.
“Some Culex adults usually
make it through the winter carrying the virus,
which means a few are circulating – and
biting,” Doyle warned. “This is a
perfect time for Larimer County residents to begin
taking steps to minimize their contact with
mosquitoes, now, and more importantly, later in
As part of routine spring yard
cleanup, homeowners should clean gutters, repair
screens, clean ornamental ponds and other
irrigation systems. Since gardening season is well
underway, Doyle suggests planning your landscape
to include low-water-use lawns and gardens. He
also suggests that homeowner associations take a
good look at their open spaces and drainage
ditches to assess how welcoming their shared
landscape is to mosquitoes.
By taking some simple preventive
steps now and continuing them throughout the
summer, you can dramatically reduce your exposure
to mosquitoes and help keep you and your family
free of West Nile infection. The Larimer
County Department of Health and Environment
recommends the following to help you and your
family “fight the bite.”
- Wear an
insect repellent containing DEET, following
instructions carefully, whenever you are
outside, in the backwoods or the backyard.
Be sure to apply repellent on children and
elderly, following instructions on the label
standing water around the house at least
weekly. Change birdbath water weekly.
Receptacles such as buckets, clogged rain
gutters and rain barrels are very attractive
spots for a mosquito to lay its eggs.
- Stay clear
of places where mosquitoes are known to
gather, (long grasses, wetlands, shrubs and
grassy shores), especially at dusk when they
are most active.
- Repair all
house screens and screen doors now. A
blood-seeking mosquito needs only a fraction
of an inch gap to enter your home.
- Trim your
bushes up to approximately 2 feet from the
ground so you can “see the knees of the
trees.” This allows air flow and reduces
dampness, thus making your bushes a poor
hiding place for mosquitoes.
low-water-use lawns and gardens now while
mosquito populations are low.
- Water your
lawn fewer times per week so the roots stay
moist but the grass blades are dry.
- In your
garden, use drip or soaker hoses instead of
In 2003, over 500 lab-confirmed
cases were reported in Larimer County, although
it’s likely that more than three times that
number became ill, and far more were bitten and
infected but didn’t become sick.
Nine patients died from the virus. Some
continue to live with long-term and disabling
effects. Though the chances of becoming
seriously ill from the virus are relatively low,
the infection can cause severe illness and even
Symptoms of West Nile fever can
include malaise, headache, muscle aches, fever,
weakness/fatigue, and rash illness. More serious
symptoms of neurological complications may include
paralysis, mental disorientation, and stiff neck
with severe headache. People aged 50 and over tend
to experience the most serious effects.
Though the summers of 2004 and
2005 were mild West Nile Virus seasons, Doyle is
quick to point out that this is not a predictor
for yet another mild season.
“We really can’t predict how
serious of a season we will have,” he said.
“So much is dependent on temperatures, the
amount of irrigation water from the winter snow
pack, and rainfall. Mosquito populations change
from week to week so we can only predict West Nile
risk a few weeks ahead, at best. We also
can’t predict how much virus may be present to
infect mosquitoes each year. The
measure of severity will unfold as the summer
It’s important to remember
that, though we’ve had two mild seasons as the
virus spread westward, it is still present in
“That’s something we know
for sure,” Doyle said. “West Nile Virus
isn’t going away any time soon.”
For more information on West
Nile Virus, go to:
For information on low-water-use
landscaping, call Larimer County Extension at 498-6000
and ask to speak to a Master Gardener.
Master Gardeners are available to answer gardening
questions Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am-
1pm. or call the Larimer County Department of
Health and Environment at: 970-498-6792.
Mosquitoes carry West NileVirus
after biting and obtaining a blood meal from
infected birds. A dead bird in your yard
might indicate the presence of West NileVirus
among the birds in your neighborhood. If you
find one or more dead birds, call the Colorado
HelpLine at 1-877-462-2911 to report it. Do
not call Larimer County Department of Health and
Environment to report dead birds since the state
is collecting all information this year.
Be sure to use gloves or a plastic bag to pick up
a dead bird.