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Thinking Mosquitos? In Colorado, It's West Nile, Not Zika

By Dr. Dave Hnida

DENVER (CBS4) -It's not only Zika that is making mosquito news. In Colorado, it's the West Nile Virus that's making the rounds.

State health officials say there has been a sharp jump in the number of people infected by West Nile, particularly over the past week or two. So far, 16 cases have been diagnosed, including one causing death.

But it's important to know that the vast majority of West Nile go undiagnosed—people either don't get sick, or if they do, aren't tested for the infection (mainly because they don't go to the doctor).

The 16 cases have been reported in a variety of areas in our states, including some metro area counties.

What do you need to know about this virus?

West Nile Virus is carried by birds, which then are bitten by mosquitos, which then bite, and possibly infect a human.

People, by the way, cannot transmit West Nile Virus to another human.

The important stuff:

Not all mosquitos transmit the virus.

Even if you are bitten and get injected with the germ, 80 percent odds you will NOT get sick. That's right, 4 in 5 people never even know they have the virus.

If you do become ill, most of the time the infection is mild—flu like symptoms with headache, chills, aches, pains, vomiting, or diarrhea. You don't feel all that bad. You still go to work, do stuff around the house, and simply feel like you are fighting off a mild summertime bug.

Yet, about one percent of people get severely sick, with meningitis, paralysis, coma, or death. We can't predict who will get this degree of sickness---and that is the worry.

Since it is a virus, there is no specific treatment for West Nile. Once again, most who do have symptoms simply get better within a week.

Nonetheless, prevention is a key, and that means following the four "D's"

Dawn and dusk are feeding times for mosquitos. That means time for caution.

Dress with long sleeves and long pants

DEET or similar can be an effective mosquito repellant.

Drain any standing water—mosquitos love to hang out and breed in these areas

In case you're wondering: As for the Zika mosquito, it's not the same one that carries West Nile, and is not thought to be found in Colorado because of our dry climate.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4's Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida

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