Traps to catch mosquitoes for West Nile virus testing are being installed across the county this week.
The traps, most of which attract the bugs with a light and carbon dioxide gas before sucking them into a bag with a fan, should be working by mid-June, said Routt County Environmental Health Director Michael Zopf.
Traps will be set up in Yampa, Oak Creek, Steamboat Springs, Hayden and probably North Routt County. They will be turned on for one day a week in each spot to collect mosquitoes. The collected bugs will be frozen and sent to Colorado Mosquito Control Inc.
There, the insects will be counted and separated by species, helping officials better understand the danger of West Nile virus in the area. The virus can be deadly to people.
Certain species are better able to carry the virus than others and are more prevalent at certain times of the year, Zopf said.
Also, some groups of mosquitoes will be sent to another lab for West Nile testing.
Two types of traps will be used. In most places, miniature light traps, which use the light and fan, will be installed. Gravid traps, which use a tub of water with rotting vegetation in it to trap the insects, also will be set up in some places.
"A combination of the two traps will give us our best chance of success at analyzing what we have out there," Zopf said.
The project is funded through a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as through $3,300 from Routt County. Local officials will operate and monitor the traps.
"I think it's perfect," Zopf said of the set-up. "This allows us to get our first year under our belts."
In later years, the county might employ someone in-house to analyze the mosquitoes.
West Nile virus was found for the first time in Routt County last summer when one horse and one bird in the county tested positive. Officials said it was likely that the horse contracted the virus while on the Front Range. Nearby Moffat County had two confirmed human infections last summer.
Susan Bowler, public health nurse manager for the Visiting Nurse Association, said this summer could be worse.
"Historically, the second year that West Nile comes through the area, there's more cases, and it's worse," Bowler said. But, she said, a drier summer could mean fewer bugs.
Residents should take all the typical precautions against mosquito bites, such as wearing long sleeves, draining standing water in their yards, using insecticides and being wary of staying outside around dusk and dawn.
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