Environmental Health

Contact Us

  • Phone: 970-328-8755
    Fax: 970-328-8788

    Environmental Health
    P.O. Box 179
    500 Broadway
    Eagle, CO 81631-0179 

    environment@eaglecounty.us


Disease Prevention

Hantavirus  

Norovirus  

Plague  

West Nile Virus  

Hantavirus

Increases in precipitation have resulted in greater rodent populations around the state which causes a higher risk of contracting rodent-borne diseases, such as  Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) .  HPS is contracted by breathing in aerosolized virus contained in the urine, droppings, or saliva of infected deer mice. HPS can occur year round but tends to peak in June or July in Colorado.   This disease is very serious and can be fatal as fluid quickly builds up in the lungs of an infected person causing severe breathing problems. To learn how to safely clean up rodent droppings, dead rodents, and nests, please see  Protection Against Hantavirus.  The following tips can help you avoid contracting HPS:

Indoors  

  • Rodent-proof your home by inspecting the premise for entry points, especially around pipes or conduit that enter a basement, crawlspace, slab or siding
  • If entry spots are discovered ¼ inch or wider, seal or fill these areas with screen, metal, cement, steel wool or other patching materials
  • Keep your home clean to avoid attracting rodents, especially the kitchen and pet areas (rodents love to eat your pet’s food)
  • Keep tight-fitting lids on garbage or recycling bins as well as pet food containers.  Discard uneaten pet food at the end of the day
  • If you attempt controlling a minor rodent problem yourself, set the spring-loaded rodent traps or EPA-approved rodenticide along the walls or baseboards.  Be sure to follow the directions on poisonous rodenticides carefully, and if you discover a serious rodent problem seek help from a licensed exterminator
  • Rodent droppings should be thoroughly soaked with disinfectant before picking up and avoid creating dust by sweeping or vacuuming

Outdoors  

  • Keep the areas around house foundations free of debris, brush, grass and junk to eliminate sources of rodent nesting
  • Use metal flashing around the base of wooden, earthen or adobe homes to provide a strong metal barrier (install so that the flashing reaches 12 inches above the ground and six inches down into the ground)
  • Keep wood piles, garbage cans or recycling bins off the ground to eliminate possible nesting sites and if possible, locate them well away from your house
  • Rodents can be trapped outside as well but remember to keep poisonous rodenticides away from areas where children or pets may go
  • Natural predators, such as non-poisonous snakes, owls and hawks will help police the area

The complete eradication of all rodents is impossible, but with ongoing effort you can keep their population and your risk of contracting HPS very low. 

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Norovirus

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Plague

Plague is a disease of rodents transmitted to humans and other animals by infected fleas. Increased precipitation has lead to an increase in rodent populations and greater plague activity statewide this year.  It is extremely important to pay attention if your pets are around areas of high rodent activity.

When an infected rodent becomes sick and dies, its fleas can carry the infection to other warm-blooded animals, including humans.  People also can be exposed through contact with infected rodents, rabbits and cats. Illness from plague can be treated successfully and cured if it is diagnosed early in its course.  History of possible exposure is very important because symptoms resemble those of many other infectious diseases.  Two to six days after being infected, people might show the following symptoms of plague:

  • A sudden onset of high fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Malaise; or a general feeling of being ill
  • Nausea and vomiting.

If precautions are taken, the probability of an individual contracting plague is quite low:

  • Eliminate sources of food and nesting places for rodents around homes, work places, and recreation areas; remove brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and potential-food supplies, such as pet and wild animal food.  Make your home rodent-proof.
  • If you anticipate being exposed to rodent fleas, apply insect repellents to clothing and skin, according to label instructions, to prevent flea bites.  Wear gloves when handling potentially infected animals.
  • If you live in areas where rodent plague occurs, treat pet dogs and cats for flea control regularly and not allow these animals to roam freely.
  • Avoid contact with all sick and dead rodents and rabbits.  Report any observations of animal die-offs to the Eagle County Environmental Health Department at 970-328-8755 or our Animal Services Department at 970-328-3647.

Remember to play smart and have a safe summer while out in our wonderful environment.

Additional Resources:

CDPHE: Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  

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West Nile Virus

Background and History

Throughout the summer, we may see a few Corvid-type birds get sick and die. Please contact our department if you see a dead Corvid; birds may be collected on a case-by-case basis for testing. Only Corvid birds, horses and human beings appear to get sick from West Nile Virus(WNV). Horses can be vaccinated, so contact your vet for detials. Eagle County has developed partnerships with municipalities and special districts who may be conducting their own WNV activities. If you live within a municipality or special district, you may want to check with your town government. Special event coordinators, golf courses, recreation districts, outfitters and others are encouraged to make DEET towelettes available to their customers.

West Nile Virus first hit the United States in 1999 in New York. It has been working its way across the country and peaked in 2003, especially in Colorado. Eagle County Environmental Health has prepared a WNV PowerPoint for your information.

Play Smart

Environmental Health encourages all citizens and visitors to play safe and wear repellent to avoid contracting West Nile Virus (WNV). The Eagle County Commissioners contracted with OtterTail Environmental, Inc. in 2004 and 2005 to conduct mosquito surveillance and abatement focused on the type of mosquito known to carry WNV, the Culex species. OtterTail staff inspected mosquito habitat for Culex larvae and used environmentally-friendly abatement products if Culex mosquitoes were discovered. OtterTail also collected adult mosquitoes from strategically-located traps on a weekly basis to determine what percentage of adult mosquitoes were of the Culex variety and submitted those mosquitoes for WNV testing. This type of program, focused on public health protection, reduced the cost associated with larvicidal treatment and provided county officials with vital information justifying the use or non-use of expensive and largely ineffective chemical sprays. This link consists of two maps, one in 2004 and the other in 2005, that shows the areas along the Eagle and Roaring Fork corridors where mosquito habitat was mapped and visited throughout the summer to check and treat for Culex. To learn more, please read the 2004 Final Report and Appendix and the 2005 Final Report.

Protect Yourself

These helpful tips and simple steps will help ensure your summer is safe and enjoyable:

  • Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn
  • Repellents that contain DEET are the most effective (the percent of DEET is proportional to the length of time protected and beyond 30 percent is probably not necessary)
  • If you don't like DEET, try something else but research the options. There's nothing like long sleeves and long pants.
  • Keep repellent handy in lots of places so you're not caught off guard! (cars, packs, totes, purses, golf bags, tackle boxes, etc.)
  • Reduce mosquito habitat on your property  
  • More information

Educate Yourself

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