Slap! It’s mosquito season in the High Country
July 21, 2010
Colorado’s high country isn’t known for mosquitoes quite like other regions of the country are, but the bothersome bugs do make an appearance here, especially around wetlands and areas with standing water.In recent weeks, hot weather has sent mosquitoes flying in noticeably greater numbers. And the water level in some reservoirs has decreased slightly, leaving small pools of water behind for mosquitoes to breed in.Luckily, these mosquitoes are mostly from the genus Aedes, which don’t tend to carry West Nile Virus at high elevations. Regardless, Aedes mosquitos are aggressive feeders and are well known for vexing campers, hikers and barbecuers.At lower elevations, such as in the Front Range, Aedes can carry West Nile, but not to the degree Culex mosquitoes do. The Summit County Environmental Health Department surveyed mosquitos a few years ago and found no evidence of Culex in areas of dense human development. At a survey site in Heeney, a sample of 100 individuals contained only one member of the Culex genus.Since West Nile virus first appeared in Colorado, health officials haven’t identified a single locally acquired human case.Nevertheless, state health officials still advise vigilance in preventing mosquito bites, even at high elevations.”Regardless of where you are, you should still take precautions,” said Elisabeth Lawaczeck, state public health veterinarian.Keeping in mind the “Four D’s” – drain, dusk and dawn, DEET and dress – can keep away nuisance mosquitos as well as ticks and any yet-unknown diseases mosquitos might carry, according to Lawaczeck. Also, high concentrations of Culex are only a short drive away, to both the east and west.”I went hiking last weekend in Battlement Mesa, and man, do I wish I had some thicker pants on,” Lawaczeck said.Three known cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the Front Range this summer, and in past years, cases have popped up in Mesa County.”If people go out to visit the vineyards on the Western Slope, there is definitely some risk, especially along the river there,” Lawaczeck said.Symptoms of West Nile virus usually appear three to 14 days after a bite, and they include fever, headache, body aches and gastrointestinal pain. The virus is carried by certain birds and transmitted to people from female Culex mosquitoes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the mosquitoes become infected when they feed on the blood of infected birds. The virus moves into the insect’s salivary glands and is injected into humans and other animals during a bite.SDN reporter Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.