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West Nile Meningitis Confirmed In Larimer County

West Nile Meningitis Confirmed

Thursday August 17th - West Nile Meningitis Confirmed In County...

A case of West Nile meningitis in a Fort Collins resident was confirmed today by the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.  The 52-year-old woman was probably bitten by an infected mosquito around July 20th, and her symptoms appeared July 29th. After spending a week in Poudre Valley Hospital, she is recovering at home.

“Not only is this a reminder that West Nile Virus is still very much with us, but also of its serious consequences,” said Adrienne LeBailly, MD, director of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. “West Nile Virus illness can be debilitating and its effects last a long time. We all need to continue to be vigilant in using insect repellents and taking other steps to prevent being bitten by an infected mosquito.”

West Nile illness is caused by the bite of a mosquito infected with the virus.  Symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, and marked fatigue. Sometimes these symptoms can progress to neurological symptoms.  In the most serious cases, the virus can invade an infected person’s nervous system and result in meningitis or encephalitis.  Symptoms include high fever, neck and eye pain, headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, tremors, difficulty walking or slurred speech.

“It’s very important to see your physician if you have neurological symptoms,” said LeBailly.  “Though there is no medicine to treat West Nile virus itself, supportive treatment can be critical to recovery.”

The announcement of the meningitis comes during a week when the number of infected mosquitoes in Fort Collins and Loveland suddenly jumped to the highest level so far this year.

People in Loveland and Fort Collins are at a higher risk now of being bitten by an infected Culex mosquito (the kind that carry West Nile virus) than at any time this summer,” said Mike Doyle, West Nile Virus Educator for the department of health and environment.

Doyle notes that last week in Fort Collins there were a total of 10 positive collective mosquito samples in Fort Collins; this week there are an additional 8.  Last week in Loveland there were a total of 5 positive collective samples; this week that number jumped by an additional 16.

“These mosquitoes were collected last week, so the number of infected mosquitoes out there right now might be even higher if the current trend continues,” said Doyle.

According to Doyle, the largest concentrations of positive mosquitoes are within one mile both north and south of the Poudre River, from LaPorte all the way to Windsor.  “This doesn’t mean that the rest of Fort Collins is safe,” he said and added that positive mosquitoes might be found anywhere the city.

“Positive mosquitoes are widespread in Loveland,” said Doyle “especially east of 287 and south of Hwy. 34.”  He also added that positive birds have been found in both Fort Collins and Loveland and positive mosquitoes were found in Berthoud traps last week.

Though summer activities might be coming to a close, the West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes will be active for a while yet, according to Doyle. “As the evenings start to get cooler in September, mosquito activity will slow down, but for now, stick with the preventive steps that have been recommended all summer,” he said.  These include the use of an effective insect repellent containing DEET when outside during mosquito-active hours, from dusk until dawn; eliminate standing water around your yard; and water your lawns sparingly.

For more information on West Nile Virus, go to or call the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment at 970-498-6752.

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Fire crews staged at entrance to Cedar Cove

Fire crews staged at entrance to Cedar Cove

Wednesday August 16th - Wildfires Burning Near Cedar Cove....

Two wildfires are currently burning on the east side of Palisade Mountain, near Cedar Cove in the Big Thompson Canyon, not Alexander Mountain as previously reported. 

The larger fire is being called the "Gulch Fire", and the smaller blaze the "Cedar Creek Fire". Both fires are at this time believed to possibly be the result of a lightning strike on Tuesday evening. Fire crews are staged at the entrance to Cedar Cove. Air tankers are in process of dropping retardant.

As of 5:00pm, the fires were reported as 5 acres and 1 acre in size, with no containment on either blaze. More information will be posted as it becomes available. 

7:30pm Update: It is now being reported that both fires are now contained.


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Boat Involved In Shay Drowning

Boat Involved In Smith Drowning

Father Charged In Carter Lake Drowning....

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden has announced that charges are expected to be filed with the District Attorney today, against Gil Dwayne Smith, 46, for Child Abuse Resulting in Death for the July 15, 2006, incident at Carter Lake.  Shay Smith, 2 years-old, was lost and presumed drowned during a boating outing with his father, his 3 year-old brother and friend of the father at approximately 8:00 P.M. that evening.  Smith, a multiple-state offender, is expected to be charged under Colorado Revised Statute 18-6-401, Child Abuse, which reads,   “A person commits child abuse if such person causes an injury to a child’s life or health, or permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health…”  CRS further states, “When a person acts knowingly or recklessly and the child abuse results in death to the child, it is a class 2 felony.”  Subsection (7) (a) states, “Where death or injury results, the following shall apply: (II) When a person acts with criminal negligence and the child abuse results in death to the child, it is a class 3 felony.”

It was originally reported to Sheriff’s Office investigators that Shay had fallen out of the boat and slipped out of his lifejacket.  However, after a lengthy investigation and due to the inconsistencies and contradictions reported to the Sheriff’s Office by Gil Smith of Longmont and Robert Venegas, also of Longmont, investigators now believe that Shay was riding on a tow-tube called the “Super Screamer,” behind the Smith boat at speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour when Shay was lost in Carter Lake.  It is further believed that the incident was not witnessed by either Gil Smith or the passenger and therefore the location of the accident is unknown.  Shay, who weighed 25 pounds, was wearing a life jacket designed for a 30 to 50 pound child. 

Since July 15, Shay Smith has been the subject of an extensive search by Larimer County Dive Rescue, Larimer County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Services, Berthoud and Loveland Fire Dive Rescue Teams as well as Coast Guard Auxiliary out of Longmont.  Later in the search Lt. Tom Greenhalgh of the Billerica Police Department in Billerica, Massachusetts and 20 year veteran with the Merrimack Valley Dive Rescue Team was brought in by Sheriff Alderden to help with the search.

This past weekend, members of the Seth Foundation of Columbus, Georgia, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving water safety in America and providing support systems to families, communities, and public safety agencies when an aquatic accident occurs, were brought in by the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.  The Seth Foundation is comprised of volunteer men and women from all regions of the United States who mission statement reads, “We understand how important the recovery of a drown victim is to bring about closure for families, friends, and loved ones.”

As of 7:00 P.M. Monday, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office suspended the search for Shay Smith until such time as new evidence should present itself.

Sheriff Jim Alderden would like to thank Larimer County Manager, Frank Lancaster who has supported this extensive search effort by approving expenditures above the current budget.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking for anyone who may have seen the Smith boat (photo above), or Shay riding the tow-tube behind the Smith's boat to call Undersheriff Ern Hudson at 970-498-5103 and leave a detailed message. 

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Crisis in Larimer County Justice System

Crisis In County Justice System

Tuesday August 15th - County Justice System Faces Crisis....

Larimer County is facing a crisis in their Criminal Justice System. The most critical piece of the crisis is jail overcrowding. The county's jail has more inmates than regulations and capacity can hold on a regular basis. This creates staffing problems, security issues, and the early release of offenders on a daily basis. 

Larimer County is unique in that it has several alternative programs that provide lower levels of security for lower risk offenders at a much lower cost to the tax payers. These programs assist in keeping as many lower risk offenders out of the jail to ease the overcrowding problem. These programs include Work Release, Workenders and Weekends, Pretrial Supervision, and Electronic Home Monitoring. These programs too, are over capacity and have waiting lists and backlogs that sometimes force offenders to be placed in jail.

Approximately three years ago, a group of professionals in the Criminal Justice System joined together to form the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (CJAC). The CJAC focuses on elements of the criminal justice system that are inter-agency in scope, to better understand how changes in one part of the system affect other aspects. This allows the team to assess the most efficient use of overall tax dollars from arrest to release. 

The committee developed a plan to address the jail overcrowding as well as other inefficiencies in the system. The plan was approved by the commissioners and is further detailed on the Larimer County website. The proposal to fund these programs and help solve the criminal justice crisis will ask citizens for a 5 mill increase in property taxes this fall.

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Indian Paintbush

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja mutis)

Sunday August 13th - Photo Of The Week....

Commonly seen blooming throughout our area during the summer months, this week's photo features the showy and colorful, "Indian Paintbrush".

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja mutis) is a member of the snapdragon family (Castilleja), which contains about 200 species of partially or wholly parasitic wildflowers that obtain nourishment from the roots of other plants. 

Lime Variety of Indian PaintbrushThe small, tubular, two-lipped flowers are surrounded by brightly colored upper leaves, giving the plant the appearance of having been dipped in a pot of red, orange, yellow, pink, or white paint.

Indian Paintbrush evoked the Native American legend of a young brave who tried to paint the sunset with his warpaints. Frustrated that he could not match the brilliance of nature, he asked for guidance from the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit gave him paintbrushes laden with the colors he so desired. With these, he painted his masterpiece and left the spent brushes in fields across the landscape. These brushes sprouted into the flowers we now so wonderfully love! 

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