Mosquitos collected in Weld County tested positive for the West Nile Virus, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Thursday, marking the first confirmed case of the disease so far this season statewide, the department reported.
The infected mosquitos were discovered during a weekly mosquito testing for West Nile virus that began in June, and after heavy rains and severe thunderstorms dumped precipitation into the area last week.
So far, no virus-carrying mosquitos have been detected in El Paso County, which historically has not had high levels of West Nile virus cases, public health officials said.
In 2013, the county switched to a report-based detection system that relies on complaints from the public about mosquitos to track cases of the virus. Public health officials said that since 2018, there have been no cases of the West Nile Virus in El Paso County.
Nevertheless, it is still possible the county could see cases of the virus, El Paso County Public Health spokesman Jared Verner said.
West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease that is most commonly spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, the CDPHE said.
Symptoms of the disease can vary, the state health department said.
“Most people infected with West Nile virus don’t have symptoms. About 20% of infected people will have flu-like symptoms, and fewer than 1% develop a serious, potentially deadly illness," the department said in a release.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around one in five people who have been infected with the virus develop the West Nile fever.
Last year, 35 people in Colorado contracted the virus and one died.
To prevent contracting the virus, the state health department said that people should drain standing water in and around their homes, dress in pants and long sleeves, avoid going outside at dawn or dusk -- which are prime hours for mosquitos -- and use insect repellant with a minimum DEET content of 25%.
The announcement about the virus-positive mosquitos came just before Gov. Jared Polis ended the public health order on Thursday that began the state’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Older adults are the most vulnerable populations for both the West Nile virus and COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, El Paso County public health officials said that the confluence of the two viruses in Colorado shouldn’t worry residents too much.
“Many viruses circulate within Colorado on a routine basis. A lifestyle of keeping ourselves healthy with good food, plenty of rest, exercise and healthy relationships decreases our vulnerability to outside stress and health risks that may emerge,” they said. “What’s important to know is which prevention methods can assist in limiting infection and transmission.”