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Denver resident dies after contracting West Nile virus

The health department urged residents to take precautions amid a statewide surges in cases of the virus.

DENVER — A Denver resident died after being hospitalized for treatment related to West Nile virus, the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) said Thursday.

The department said the 71-year-old resident died amid a "surge" in cases of West Nile across the state. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 11 people have died after contracting the virus so far this year. Earlier this week, local officials reported deaths in Boulder and Larimer counties. A death was also reported in Weld County.

On Thursday, Pitkin County Health said it identified a "probable" transmission of the virus there said if confirmed it would be the first known case ever in Pitkin County.

With the surge, DDPHE urged residents take precautions to protect against the virus.

"We are thinking of the family during this difficult time," said Bob McDonald, DDPHE’s executive director and Denver’s public health administrator. "This mosquito season has been particularly bad in Colorado, and I urge everyone to take WNV seriously and take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquito bites."

Since the beginning of the mosquito season, DDPHE disease intervention specialists have investigated 23 cases of the virus. It's not spread through person-to-person transmission but through the bite of an infected mosquito.

In Colorado, most cases are diagnosed in August and September, but cases can be identified as early as May and as late as December. Generally, the mosquito season extends from late April until mid-October, with the end usually signaled by the first freeze in the fall.

While everyone is at risk of being infected with West Nile virus, those over 50 years old or with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of developing serious illness.

Symptoms typically include fever, extreme fatigue, headache and body aches but can also occasionally include skin rashes and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms generally appear three to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

While most infections are mild, more serious infections can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and/or meningitis (inflammation of the brain's lining), loss of vision, paralysis, coma, tremors, convulsions and death.

 Residents experiencing symptoms should consult their doctor. While there is no treatment, cure or human vaccination for the virus, medical professionals can treat symptoms to help patients feel better and possibly recover more quickly.

DDPHE recommends residents do their part to help protect the community against WNV by taking the following precautions:

  • Stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near water on your property.
  • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, wheelbarrows, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots and trash containers.
  • Check for water-holding containers both indoors and outdoors.
  • Do not water your cement or the street. It can result in pools that support larval mosquitoes.
  • If you are making landscape decisions, consider ways to minimize overspray (of irrigation) to streets and gutters.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with DEET. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Avoid activity outdoors from dusk until dawn.
  • When outdoors, wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Use mosquito repellent as well as candles, incense and other means to deter mosquitos from your vicinity.
  • Use screens on windows and doors. Repair holes in screens to keep mosquitoes outdoors.

 For more information about West Nile virus, mosquito activity in Denver, or proactive steps to take, visit the DDPHE Mosquito Control webpage or call the Colorado Health Information Line at 877-462-2911.

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