Six Dead in Colorado from West Nile 2003

Colorado is the hardest hit by West Nile so far in August 2003, with six people dying from the mosquito-bourne virus.

The West Nile Virus produces anything from fever, headaches and rashes to paralysis and death in those who are elderly or weak. This virus is of particular concern to birders, as they are often out at dusk and in woods or other areas that mosquitoes live.

On one hand, with only 284 deaths total in 2002, that is far less than just about any other danger that exists in the world. The classic "impossibly unlikely" statistic of being killed by lightning results in about 100 deaths a year in the US. Bee stings account for 100 deaths each year, yet most of us welcome them into our gardens.

The number of deaths each year attributed to obesity is over 300,000, yet people sit around eating ice cream and bags of chips while hiding inside and worrying about a mosquito. Why don't we mind walking in the rain or watching a buzzy bee, yet we panic about a mosquito that is just as unlikely to cause us real harm?

On the other hand, mosquito bites are itchy, and it's always wise to take precautions against mosquito bites, regardless of whether or not this lightning-strike-chance one will infect you and kill you. So temper your panic, and take normal steps to prevent bikes that any camper, hiker or nature lover would be taking anyway.

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