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Montezuma County resident dies from West Nile virus

(Rick Bowmer/Associated Press file)
Statewide, virus has infected 155 people and killed eight

The West Nile virus has killed a resident of Montezuma County, according to a news release from the Montezuma County Public Health Department.

It was the county’s only case of the virus this year, the health department said Oct. 20. No cases of West Nile were reported in 2020, according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data.

Statewide, 155 cases of the virus – eight of them fatal – have been reported this year. Of the 155 cases, 91 were neuroinvasive, and 99 people were hospitalized.

West Nile cases have been reported in Colorado every year since 2002, according to CDPHE. Two were reported in La Plata County last year, but none this year.

In 2019, four cases were reported in Montezuma County, breaking a five-year streak of no cases. In 2013, six were reported, ending a five-year stretch without West Nile cases.

The West Nile virus, first discovered in the West Nile District of Uganda, is transmitted from infected birds by the common culex mosquito. The disease can cause encephalitis or meningitis, and about one in five people with the virus will develop symptoms such as a fever.

One in 150 will become more seriously ill, sometimes leading to death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most deaths occur among people 50 and older, according to CDPHE.

In Colorado, the average age of a person infected with the virus is 59 this year. The oldest person to contract the virus in 2021 was 87, and the youngest 22, CDPHE data shows.

The majority of state mosquito testing has occurred in the Front Range, according to CDPHE. No mosquitoes have been tested in Montezuma County.

In people, most cases of the virus occur in August and September, and risk decreases as temperatures drop, according to the county health department’s news release.

“There is no treatment or vaccine for WNV in humans, so you should protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing mosquito repellent containing DEET, avoiding the outdoors between dusk and dawn, and wearing long sleeves and pants. Draining any standing water also discourages mosquitoes from breeding,” the release said.

Cases by county
  • Montezuma: 1
  • Weld: 24
  • Larimer: 23
  • Delta: 17
  • Denver: 17
  • Adams: 16
  • Boulder: 16
  • Jefferson: 11
  • Montrose: 11
  • Arapahoe: 5
  • Douglas: 4
  • Yuma: 3
  • El Paso: 2
  • Pueblo: 2
  • Broomfield: 1
  • Kit Carson: 1
  • Phillips: 1
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