Colorado reports first human case of West Nile virus

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported the state's first human case of West Nile virus this season on Wednesday and recommended precautions for avoiding mosquito bites.

The human case occurred in a resident of Delta County who showed symptoms of illness 11 days after reporting multiple mosquito bites. The patient developed West Nile virus fever, which is a less severe form of the disease, and recovered after a short hospitalization.

"It's time to pack the mosquito repellent when heading out for fireworks, camping or any outdoor activities during evening hours," John Pape, the state epidemiologist in charge of West Nile virus surveillance, said. "The threat of West Nile virus doesn't mean you have to avoid activities you enjoy, but it is important to take a few simple steps to avoid mosquito bites."

The health department reported that six additional counties in Colorado tested positive for West Nile virus in mosquito pools in Weld, Pueblo, Mesa, Larimer, Boulder and Adams.

In 2012, Colorado experienced 131 reported cases and five deaths. Approximately 46 percent of the patients developed the severe, neuroinvasive form of the disease. A patient infected with West Nile virus in August who had developed acute flaccid paralysis passed away just last month.

"We know that, for most people, infection with West Nile virus usually results in a mild illness from which patients recover," Pape said. "But for some people, it is a life-altering or life-threatening illness. Since there is no way to predict how sick any one person will become if infected, the best medicine is to prevent illness by avoiding mosquito bites."

Pape recommends that Colorado residents drain standing water, limit outdoor activities or take precautions to prevent mosquito bites at dusk and dawn, use insect repellants with DEET and dress in lightweight long sleeves and pants in areas where mosquitoes are active.