Summer might be nearing an end, but mosquitoes are still swarming.
As of Aug. 1, Jefferson County had submitted 17 pools of mosquitoes to be tested for West Nile virus and three came back positive in the Front Range area.
“The West Nile virus has been detected in the county, so everyone needs to take precautions,” said David Volkel, environmental specialist with Jefferson County Public Health.
Jeffco traps mosquitoes overnight across the county and sends in the trapped mosquitoes for testing. Two from Lakewood and one from Golden have tested positive.
The only Colorado cases of West Nile in humans this year have been reported in Delta and Larimer Counties. Jeffco reported three cases of the virus in humans in 2012, none in 2011 and one in 2010, Volkel said.
Though no human cases of West Nile have been reported, residents still need to take precautions when it comes to the outdoors, Volkel said.
The biggest thing to remember is the four Ds.
“The four Ds are DEET, or another EPA insect repellent, people should get used to having that with them when they’re outside and near water; draining
standing water - mosquitoes can lay eggs in small amounts of water like a coffee can, so empty the water; dressing with long sleeves and long pants, and the fourth D is a combination of dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.”
The mosquito population may also be larger than in years past, Volkel said, because of increased moisture in July.
“The more moisture, the more chances of mosquito growth,” he said. “April had a bit more moisture, then it dried out in May and June. More moisture in July from rain and storms may have allowed areas to have more water that continue to increase mosquito growth. Moisture and heat are the ultimate thing for the mosquito population to grow.”
Jefferson County and the cities within the county used to have a shared mosquito breeding control program which was stopped following the 2010 season due to budget constraints.
“We used to do a mosquito breeding control program, but programs such as these have to be done on a regional basis and can’t be effective alone,” said Arvada Communication Manager Wendy Forbes. “After 2010, Jeffco Public Health decided not to have a program, therefore we didn’t have one either.”
The program, which treated standing water every seven days to kill mosquito larvae, cost about $200,000 per season to cover the area east of the Foothills, the costs of which were divided among the municipalities and the Jeffco Public Health, Volkel said.
Forbes said if the city of Arvada continued the program without the assistance of Jeffco covering unincorporated areas, it would not have been effective.
“Our efforts would have been greatly diluted if we had continued to spend funding on the mosquito breeding program because mosquitoes don’t respect political boundaries,” Forbes said. “Mosquitoes can fly up to a five-mile radius and that means all part of the city would be impacted. Because they disbanded their program, we did not continue either.”
Mosquitoes are a concern for Arvada resident Sarah Hailes, though.
“Mosquitoes have completely taken over our yard,” Hailes said. “I walk on Little Dry Creek Trail all the time and it’s to the point you can’t walk there at all. They swarm. It’s really gross. I was putting on mosquito repellent and they were landing on my while I was putting repellent on.”
Hailes said she has had a mosquito magnet trap in her yard since April and has been bitten every day since the end of May. Around July 10, Hailes said she was bitten by about 15 mosquitoes and a few days later noticed symptoms for what she thought was some kind of virus.
“We went to the Renaissance Festival in Larkspur and I got a fever and thought `This is really weird.’ I thought it might have been heat exhaustion,” Hailes said. “I described my symptoms to my doctor and he said since it was flu-like, it was probably a virus I was fighting off. I’ve been treated for cancer for the last year and a half, so my immune system is not completely 100 percent so I was probably sick from some type of virus from mosquitoes.”
Hailes said the type of virus she had was unknown.
“I rested a few days and then I was fine,” she said.
Hailes said, with mosquitoes testing positive for the virus, she’s concerned humans in Jefferson County could contract West Nile as well.
“That’ my biggest concern,” she said. “I don’t want my family to get it. I don’t want my dog to get sick either. Being outside all the time, you can’t put Off on a dog.”
For now, though, residents will have to take their own precautions because there currently isn’t funding for a mosquito mitigation program from Jefferson County, Volkel said.
“In Boulder and Longmont and a couple other cities with mosquito control programs, they actually have a mill levy or tax that goes into the program so they can have an ongoing program,” Volkel said. “It’s funded through a funding mechanism through the city or county. It people wanted to do that, we could do it. Citizens would have to want to tax themselves to pay for that.”
Residents should continue to take personal precautions and remember the four Ds for a few more weeks, though, as mosquitoes are usually active until September, Volkel said.