WELD COUNTY — A horse in Platteville has tested positive for the West Nile virus.
West Nile infection rates are increasing in Weld County and health officials continue to stress the importance of protecting oneself.
“Weld County currently has twelve confirmed human West Nile virus cases, and more are being investigated,” said Dr. Mark Wallace, Executive Director for the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment. The cases range from 15 to 81 years of age.
Of those confirmed cases, three have meningoencephalitis—the most serious form of infection, the other nine have West Nile fever. There is one confirmed death attributed to West Nile meningoencephalitis in Weld County this year.
“The risk for West Nile infection will continue until the first killing frost, so be safe outside,” Wallace said.
According to Colorado State University, horses infected with West Nile virus are not an infection risk for other horses, animals or humans. However, the same Culex mosquito bites that infect horses are also a risk for humans.
Residents who are 65 years old and older are at higher risk for complications, but everyone is at risk for infection. Recommendations to prevent mosquito bites include:
— Apply an effective mosquito repellent to exposed skin and clothing.
— Avoid the outdoors from dusk until dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
Recommendations to reduce mosquitoes near homes and animals:
— Drain standing water outside the home, such as water found in pails, old tires, trash cans, and pots.
— Use a Mosquito Dunk (larvicide) if you have standing water you cannot drain.
— Avoid over-watering landscapes and yards, because mosquitoes can breed in very small amounts of stagnant water.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile infection in humans. A vaccine for horses is available. Fortunately, most people infected with the virus have no symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.
If someone develops symptoms, they should contact their health care provider immediately. For more information on West Nile virus and horses visit http://www.ext.colostate.edu/westnile/faq.html#Horses