LA PLATA COUNTY (KRQE) – A resident of La Plata County in southern Colorado has died of West Nile virus. This is the fifth time someone in the jurisdiction of the San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) has been infected with the mosquito-borne illness.

The health agency explains that the virus is passed from mosquitoes to humans through bites, and those who are 60 years old or over, along with those who have certain medical conditions, are at a greater risk of having a worse illness from the virus.

The SJBPH says that the time between the mosquito bite and the start of symptoms of the virus can range from two to 14 days. West Nile virus can lead to serious brain infections, which can then result in permanent brain damage or death; this most commonly occurs in people over 50 years old.

Since there is no treatment for the virus and no vaccine to prevent it, the best method to fend off West Nile virus is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos. The SJBPH department is urging community members to protect themselves by taking the following measures:

  • Use insect repellents when going outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or mara-methane-diol products are the most effective.
  • Limit outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are the most active.
  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks in mosquito-heavy areas. Spray clothes with repellent for extra protection.
  • Empty objects holding standing water (tires, cans, flowerpots, puddles) at least once a week to combat mosquito breeding.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of West Nile virus can include a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash. Symptoms of the illness worsening include a heightened fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis. If any of these symptoms occur and you suspect you may be infected with West Nile virus, make sure to speak with a healthcare professional.