Mosquito tracking planned in county | SteamboatToday.com

Mosquito tracking planned in county

Susan Cunningham

Routt County plans to ease itself into tracking mosquitoes by collecting the insects this summer and sending them off to a professional lab for analysis.

The county hopes to purchase a microscope and other equipment to do the analysis on its own, said Routt County Environmental Health Director Michael Zopf.

But for the first summer of analysis, they likely will go through Colorado Mosquito Control Inc., he said.

Today, Routt County commissioners could approve the use of the professional services, which would cost about $5,000, including shipping and materials.

The county plans to set up traps in Yampa, Oak Creek, Steamboat Springs, Hayden and at Steamboat Lake, with additional testing in Milner, Steamboat II, and other sites.

The goal is to track mosquito populations to better understand the danger of West Nile virus, which is transported by mosquitoes and can be deadly to people.

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The virus was found for the first time in Routt County last summer when one horse and one bird in the county tested positive. Local health officials said it was likely that the horse contracted the virus while in the Front Range area. Nearby Moffat County had two human infections last summer.

There is no way to predict how prevalent the virus could be in Routt County this summer, Zopf said.

Tracking the number and types of mosquitoes in the county through the mosquito surveillance program will provide valuable information to decision-makers, Zopf said. The data could help officials decide whether and when to spray for the insects, and also could help residents better understand the importance of wearing mosquito repellent and taking other precautions.

Certain species are better able to carry the virus than others and are more prevalent at certain times of the year, Zopf said.

“It’s going to be helpful to generate some baseline numbers with which to compare,” Zopf said. “Right now, all we can do is tell people it’s an entirely preventable disease, but we don’t know at this altitude anything about the density of mosquito populations, nor do we have any data on the species of mosquitoes that are present.”

The county will purchase the traps, microscope and other supplies with a $3,200 grant it received last year from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Surveillance likely will begin in mid-May, Zopf said. That’s also when residents should start slathering on the insect repellent and taking precautions to avoid the bugs.

“Everyone has to be vigilant for themselves and use mosquito repellents on a frequent basis,” Zopf said. “Even with a massive mosquito abatement program, there’s no way we can eradicate mosquitoes.”

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com