County logs first death from West Nile

An elderly Mesa County resident died early Wednesday morning at a local hospital due to complications from West Nile virus infection, according to the Mesa County Health Department.

The man likely contracted the virus in late August or early September, according to the health department, and experienced cough, body aches, chills and fever. He died after he developed brain inflammation, also know as encephalitis. He is the first Mesa County resident to die from complications of West Nile virus since 2010.

Twenty percent of people infected with West Nile virus show symptoms, which can initially include body aches, fever, headache, nausea, rash and swollen lymph nodes. Some people stop at the West Nile fever syndrome stage, while others develop encephalitis or meningitis, which is a bacterial infection that can affect the spinal cord and membranes covering the brain.

Colorado has had three West Nile-related deaths so far this year as of this Wednesday, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That tally does not include the death in Mesa County. The three confirmed deaths in the state linked to West Nile were reported in Adams, Larimer and Weld counties.

As of Wednesday, 20 of Colorado’s 64 counties had confirmed at least one case of clinically-diagnosed West Nile virus. Out of 215 cases statewide, 160 involved a fever, 30 led to meningitis and 25 caused encephalitis.

Mesa County has had six clinically confirmed cases of West Nile virus so far this year, according to the Mesa County Health Department. Three of those cases involved encephalitis and three people were diagnosed with the fever version of West Nile virus.

Delta County has had a dozen cases of West Nile virus characterized by fever and one case of West Nile-linked meningitis, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, while Montrose County has had one case of West Nile-linked encephalitis. Garfield County has no confirmed West Nile cases in 2013.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through mosquitoes that have bitten an infected bird. The Mesa County Health Department recommends using insect repellent, including those that contain DEET; draining standing water; wearing long sleeves and pants outdoors; and avoiding the outdoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquito activity peaks.

West Nile infections typically occur between May and September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, and the risk of human infection typically peaks in late August and early September. The incubation period between a mosquito bite and development of symptoms can range from two days to two weeks, according to the CDC, but can be longer for people with medical conditions that impact the immune system.

“Until we get a hard frost and those mosquitoes stop flying around, the risk is still there,” Rene Landry, Mesa County Health Department communicable disease manager, said in a press release.


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