Two confirmed cases of West Nile virus in Weld; vector index highest ever recorded | MyWindsorNow.com

Two confirmed cases of West Nile virus in Weld; vector index highest ever recorded

Kelly Ragan
kragan@greeleytribune.com

For about three weeks, Linda Robbins, of Greeley felt exhausted, easily confused and anxious.

The Sears Real Estate agent finally went to the doctor and learned her fate. On Thursday, she became one of Weld County's first documented human infections of the West Nile virus.

"I came into work and I couldn't do anything," Robbins said. "It seemed like getting up to take a shower was more than I could do in a day."

Come Friday, there was another confirmed infection in the county, which earlier this week revealed the first West Nile human infection this summer.

The vector index is 2.75, the highest ever recorded in Weld, said Eric Aakko, public information officer for the Weld County department of Public Health and Environment. The calculation is used to determine the risk of human infection for the virus. Any score 0.75 or higher indicates a significant risk for humans. The data is for high risk areas such as Greeley, Evans, Kersey and LaSalle.

Another zone, including Johnstown, Milliken, Platteville and Mead, showed a vector index of 2.38, a news release stated.

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"It means West Nile is definitely here," Aakko said. "We're starting to see human infections."

Since Thursday, at least two people have been diagnosed with the virus after displaying symptoms.

"People should take it seriously and take steps to avoid getting bit," Aakko said. "At best — if you're showing symptoms — you might feel sick and have low energy for a couple weeks. At worst, you might experience a permanent disability or death."

When Robbins was finally diagnosed and able to put a name to what was going on, it felt like a relief, she said. Her doctor instructed her to stay home, get plenty of rest and drink lots of water. Since there's no vaccine or medical cure once the virus is contacted, that's all Robbins can do for now. She's expected to recover and the rest is helping, she said.

Most people — 80 percent — who contract the virus don't show symptoms or even know they are infected, Aakko said.

About 20 percent, like Robbins, do show symptoms. Initial symptoms can include fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, weakness and rash.

About 1 percent of those infected could experience symptoms such as high fever, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, vision loss, paralysis and even death, according to a news release.

Symptoms may appear three to 14 days after infection, the release stated.

Robbins remembered three weeks prior to getting sick she and a couple others were hanging out at night in Ault. They stood outside talking.

"We knew we were getting eaten by mosquitoes," Robbins said. "Thinking back to that night, I think, 'Why did we stand there and talk?' People need to take this seriously."

Aakko said prevention is the most effective way to deal with the virus. He encouraged folks to limit outdoor activity near dawn and dusk, dress in long sleeves and pants where mosquitoes are active, and wear Deet to repel mosquitoes.

The high vector index is likely due to the hot days and afternoon rainstorms creating the perfect conditions for breeding and laying eggs, Aakko said. He also indicated Weld would see more cases of West Nile before summer ends.

"The indexes are off the charts," Aakko said. "We may have more human infections."

How to prevent West Nile virus

» Drain standing water around your home every week. Remember to drain water from tires, toys and anything else that can hold the standing water that mosquitoes use to breed.

» Dusk and dawn are the times when mosquitoes are most active. Stay indoors during that time or take precautions to prevent bites.

» Deet is an effective ingredient to use for an insect repellent. Use it and follow the directions carefully.

» Dress in long sleeves and pants in areas where mosquitoes are active.

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