Mosquitos collected in Fruita area test positive for West Nile Virus

A mosquito carrying the West Nile Virus has been found in Mesa County for the first time in 2022.
A mosquito carrying the West Nile Virus has been found in Mesa County for the first time in 2022.(Katja Schulz / CC BY 2.0)
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 1:55 PM MDT
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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KJCT) - Mesa County Public Health reports that it has detected West Nile Virus in Mesa County mosquito populations for the first time in 2022. The infected mosquitos were collected by the Grand River Mosquito Control District from the Fruita area roughly two weeks ago, between July 18-22.

The species of mosquito that tested positive was of the Culex species, which is capable of infecting humans with the virus. An 80-year-old woman in Delta County tested positive for a West Nile Virus infection on Monday.

Most human cases of West Nile Virus infections are reported in August and September, as it can take three to 14 days to develop symptoms. Only about 20 percent of infected people develop symptoms.

As there is no cure or vaccine for the virus, Mesa County Public Health suggests using an EPA-approved insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, 2-undecanone, or lemon eucalyptus oil, dressing in long sleeves and pants in areas where mosquitos are common, avoiding being outdoors at dusk and dawn, and to drain or remove sources of standing water on your property to avoid infections

Per data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the virus first appeared in Colorado in 2003 and resulted in 2,948 infections, 66 deaths, and 146 hospitalizations. However, cases have fallen significantly over the past 19 years, with only 175 total cases reported in 2021 and 35 reported in 2020.

According to the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, West Nile Virus is typically spread to humans via the bite of an infected mosquito which act as a carrier for the disease between humans and birds. Birds are the primary host of the West Nile Virus, and human-to-human infections are extremely rare. The virus can be spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, or from mother to baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding, but otherwise does not spread between humans.

The CDC states that symptoms can mimic the flu, including fevers, headaches, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea and rashes. Only about 1 in 5 of infected people develop these symptoms.

Rare symptoms (seen in roughly 1 in 150 people) can develop into severe illness that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms may include inflammation of the brain, inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, high fever, headaches, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis.

Recovery from severe illness can take weeks or months, and some symptoms can become permanent due to damage to the central nervous system caused by the virus. Around 1 out of ten people who develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system die.

For continually-updated information about mosquitos in Mesa County, visit the Grand River Mosquito Control District’s website.

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