In a piece of news that sent shivers down the spine of Colorado residents, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in its latest report stated that this year 21 people in the state lost their lives as they were infected by the West Nile virus. The data as of September 22, also says that the death tally of 21 forms part of the 460 people who have been affected by the virus. The more worrying part is that 236 of them were impacted with neurologic symptoms.
Bug-borne Virus Has killed 21 In Colorado This Year
The West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes and it can infect humans, horses, birds, mosquitoes, and some other mammals. In most of the cases, it will cause only mild, flu-like symptoms. However, according to the John Hopkins Medicine website, the virus can even cause life-threatening illnesses such as encephalitis, meningitis, and meningoencephalitis.
On Thursday, CBS News reported the case of Nancy Crow, a Colorado woman who was infected by poliomyelitis, following a West Nile virus contraction. For the unknown, poliomyelitis is an infectious viral disease that affects the central nervous system and it can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis.
Colorado witnessed the highest surge in West Nile virus-infected cases in early August. During the week of August 7, it touched a peak of 83 cases. It is to be noted that case reports remained higher than the five-year average through the first week of September.
In Colorado, generally, the typical West Nile virus season occurs from the month of May till October. However, in 2023, the number touched the peak around 4 weeks before the expected date.
In the past, the West Nile infected cases rose to an all-time high of 2,948 and 578 cases in 2003 and 2007 respectively. However, 2023 has already proven to be the second-deadliest year in the history of Colorado.
Though the numbers are quite less when compared to the 66 deaths caused by the virus in 2003, the virus infection is expected to continue for at least one more week after the last data report.
The most concerning factor is that there is no vaccine available to prevent the West Nile virus. According to the CDC, following the below steps will help avoid mosquito bites and stay protected from the West Nile virus.
- When you are outdoors, apply insect repellent containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide)
- There are chances that mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Thus, it is recommended to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants treated with repellents containing permethrin or DEET whenever possible.
- The peak hours of mosquito bites, especially the ones that spread West Nile virus infection are dawn, dusk, and early evening. Hence, it is better to remain indoors during those times of the day.
- Prevent the chances of mosquitoes laying their eggs by eliminating standing water sources from around your home.
There are more chances for people who are exposed to mosquito bites during the summer months to get infected by the West Nile virus. In most of the cases, people infected with the virus will have only mild symptoms.
However, it is to be noted that in case of serious symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, paralysis, muscle weakness, stiff neck, confusion, vision loss, numbness, seizures, tremors, or coma, it is quite essential to seek medical attention immediately. Generally, doctors ask patients to undergo a blood test to check for antibodies to the West Nile virus. Also, they may ask to do a lumbar puncture to test cerebrospinal fluid for signs of infection.
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