Large numbers of mosquitoes expected in Routt this year

County officials warn about West Nile virus, potential harm to animals

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— The buzz around Routt County is that those pesky mosquitoes might come out in force this summer.

Cooler weather may be keeping the mosquito population at bay for now, but some expect that to change.

“It might be delayed, but it’s going to be bad because of the amount of standing water we have,” Routt County Extension Agent CJ Mucklow said.

Mike Zopf, director Routt County’s Department of Environmental Health, also said the ingredients are in place for a bigger mosquito population.

“Certainly, this year is when people need to be especially vigilant,” Zopf said.

Rain combined with the moisture from a big snow year could create more areas than normal of standing water, the breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The bugs can be more than an annoyance. They also can carry diseases such as the West Nile virus.

“We are definitely still concerned about West Nile and other mosquito-borne illnesses,” Zopf said.

In 2010, there were 57 West Nile deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Four of those deaths were in Colorado.

Those numbers are down substantially from 2003, when there were 63 West Nile deaths in Colorado and 264 nationwide.

“Things have certainly improved,” Zopf said. “Still, people should maintain caution.”

The virus is rare in Northwest Colorado, though there was one case in 2010 in Moffat County. Another two cases were reported in 2002, but there have been no documented human cases in Routt County, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In 2010, West Nile cases were concentrated in counties on the Front Range.

Mucklow still advises horse owners to have their animals vaccinated for Western equine encephalitis, another disease mosquitoes carry.

Zopf recommends that people take simple precautions such as using mosquito repellent and wearing clothing that covers the skin.

“I guess the good news is mosquito bites are preventable, but it does take some vigilance,” Zopf said.

Zopf and Mucklow encouraged people to get rid of standing water or treat it with larvicide. Mucklow said one popular product is Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis. BTI is a naturally occurring soil bacterium registered for control of mosquito larvae, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Property owners also should be mindful of smaller areas where mosquitoes can breed, such as tires, planters, bird baths and depressions.

“These should be drained every three or four days to keep mosquitoes from breeding in them,” Zopf said.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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