There were 104 cases of West Nile virus in Colorado as of Oct. 14 — a higher number than the last few years, mostly likely due to the effects of a wet winter, according to officials.
West Nile cases have affected people in the region, including Tanya Morlang of Redvale who was diagnosed last month.
Morlang said the public should know that the virus can exist in local areas, and it can be scary, especially when it goes undetected.
“It was awful, I honestly wasn’t sure what was going on. It’s flu-like symptoms, but it was much worse than regular flu symptoms,” she told The Norwood Post.
After becoming very sick after a late-summer camping trip, Morlang visited three different health care centers, which weren’t sure what had caused her illness. She ended up requesting to be tested for the virus after doing her own research.
She wants people to be educated about the virus, especially for next summer.
“If you feel super sick, go and ask to be tested, because it’s hard to detect and it masquerades as different things,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt to be tested.”
West Nile is a virus most commonly spread by mosquitoes. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said people can't transmit the virus to other people; mosquitoes spread the virus to humans, primarily from June through early September.
Mosquitoes become carriers of West Nile after they feed on infected birds, according to colorado.gov/cdphe. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans. In a handful of cases, the virus spreads through other means, including blood transfusions, organ transplants, and from mother to baby during pregnancy or at the time of birth, according to the website.
Colorado has had cases of West Nile virus every year since 2002. Those at highest risk of infection are people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities. The virus can spread to people of all ages, though the elderly and those with existing medical conditions are at a greater risk. Some people who are infected don’t appear to be sick, while others show signs of the virus two to 14 days after exposure.
In some cases, the virus is fatal or can cause brain infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis. The infections begin suddenly with a high fever and headache and may progress to stiffening of the neck, disorientation, tremors and coma. Severe infections can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Utah recently confirmed its first human death due to the disease. Authorities said Saturday a central Utah resident at least 65 years old died from the disease carried by mosquitoes sometime between Sept. 21 and 28. Information about the victim, including name and gender, have not been released.
Officials said there is no treatment for the virus other than supportive care, and there is no vaccine to prevent it. The most effective way to avoid West Nile is to prevent mosquito bites.
For more information on where West Nile cases have been reported, visit colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/west-nile-virus-data.