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Gazette Premium Content West Nile virus detected in El Paso County

By Andrea Sinclair Published: October 4, 2013

A man has contracted the West Nile virus in El Paso County, health officials announced Wednesday, marking the county's first confirmed case this year.

No details on the man's condition were released by El Paso County Public Health officials. The case comes on the tail end of West Nile season in the Pikes Peak region, which typically peaks in July and August, said Dr. Bill Letson, El Paso County Public Health's medical director.

"As long as it's not freezing overnight, the mosquitoes remain fairly active," said Letson, adding that infections can occur through October.

El Paso County had two confirmed West Nile virus cases in 2012, according to Danielle Oller, a public health department spokeswoman.

The virus takes between two days and 14 days to incubate. About 20 percent of the people infected develop flu-like symptoms; meningitis and encephalitis occur in about 1 percent of human cases.

West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquitoes, which lay eggs in standing pools of water.

It remains to be seen whether the recent flooding raises infection rates.

While the resurgent monsoon left more pools of standing water throughout the Pikes Peak region, the heavy rains may have reduced the West Nile virus risk, Letson said.

Many pools of water that previously held mosquito eggs earlier in summer were wiped out in the rain and floods, he said.

Colorado health officials do not expect a surge of West Nile cases in northern Colorado, where infection rates are typically higher and where flooding this month was more widespread, said Mark Salley, a Colorado Department of Health and Environment spokesman.

"We'll just have to see if it makes much difference," Letson said. "But as I said, it can go in either direction."

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