Late spring and early summer mark the start of mosquito season in Mesa County, and this year's wet spring has created some ideal breeding conditions for the pesky insects.

Mesa County Public Health is urging people to do what they can to limit those breeding areas near their homes and protect themselves when going outside as a high rate of mosquitoes can also mean greater risk of the West Nile virus.

The virus is carried by the culex mosquito in Mesa County.

"We have seen culex activity earlier than what we've seen in previous years," said Heidi Dragoo, epidemiology program manager for Mesa County Public Health. "They've loved this really wet spring, and our traps are showing that species."

Mesa County Public Health has once again partnered with the Grand River Mosquito Control District to monitor the mosquito population throughout the Grand Valley.

The district has placed 83 traps at various locations and has identified about 10,000 active breeding areas.

"More water means more breeding sites," said Tom Moore, district manager of the Grand River Mosquito Control District.

West Nile cases in Mesa County have been modest over the past five years with only 20 reported cases over that span. The county only had two cases last year, while Montrose and Delta counties each had eight.

Mesa County Public Health tracks cases in both humans and animals. No cases have been reported yet this year, however, Dragoo said cases are most common in August or September.

Symptoms for West Nile virus include fever, rash and joint pain that can last from two days to two weeks. More severe symptoms can consist of high fever, stiff neck and swelling around the brain.

The good news, Dragoo said, is that most people infected never show symptoms of the virus. Only one in 10 people ever develop a mild illness and one in 150 obtain a more severe one.

Those who are symptomatic should consult a doctor. Recovery can occur within a week or so, but more severe afflictions can take longer.

To help reduce the mosquito population, Dragoo and Moore both suggested that people look for standing water near their home. Mosquitoes love to lay their larva in wet areas, especially if water has accumulated in something such as a flower pot or in a gutter.

The life cycle of a mosquito is seven days, and it will lay 150-200 eggs in its lifetime. Eliminating standing water can help kill off some of that larva. Moore said.

He added that the culex mosquito is one of 26 commonly found in the Grand Valley. It typically breeds more later in the summer when the weather is warmer.

When heading outside, Dragoo suggests applying mosquito repellent and avoiding outside activities around dawn and dusk, which is when mosquitoes are most active. Repellent should have either DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus as an ingredient.

Dragoo said it's too early to determine the impact of the wet spring on West Nile and the overall mosquito population, but it appears the population will be large this year.

"I think the good news is we're working together to have real-time data on what mosquito activity is doing here," she said.

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