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West Nile virus detected in city

Aug 21, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Area residents have been warned to be vigilant in avoiding mosquitoes now that West Nile virus has been detected in city limits.

Local resident and mayoral candidate Lars Baker, who retired last year as supervisor of the Fremont County Weed and Pest Control District, said Tuesday that the virus has been detected in local mosquito populations.

The virus is a mosquito-borne disease that can cause a serious illness in humans, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most infected people will not get sick, but about 20 percent have a fever and experience flu-like symptoms.

Fewer than 1 percent of people with West Nile virus develop serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.

Baker approached the Riverton City Council on Tuesday to talk about prevention efforts, which are largely the responsibility of each individual person.

"You have to not spend a lot of time out after dark," Baker said. "You have to cover up, wear mosquito repellant and pay attention to what's going on. This mosquito will come in the house if you let it, and it'll get you while you sleep."

He said it is appropriate for municipal staff to begin spraying the insecticide malathion twice each week in designated areas throughout the city in an attempt to control mosquito populations.

Riverton has issued a public health alert this week outlining plans to follow Baker's recommendation. According to the notice, previously requested "no spray" areas will also be included in the twice-per-week fogging.

One local woman, Judy Woolery, likely was happy to hear about the increase in fogging efforts. She approached the council just before Baker on Tuesday regarding her neighborhood on North 16th Street East.

"The mosquitoes are thick," Woolery said. "I want that looked into."

She said she had called the city shop earlier to ask about their spray control program. According to Woolery, employees at the shop said they had stopped spraying in local alleys.

"They only spray when it isn't raining or wind blowing or whatever," she said. "They said they didn't have enough manpower or money to buy the product to spray. ... That's ridiculous. That's one of our main things we need in this county and city."

Mayor Ron Warpness said he also had spoken with a resident who expressed concern about the lack of spraying in her area.

"The mosquitoes were eating her up as well," Warpness said. "Maybe we can do a little better job on that."

Baker pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency regulates the application of pesticides in municipal mosquito control programs. The presence of West Nile virus in Riverton justifies the disease vector element of the treatment program.

Lands division foreman Gregg Schaub on Thursday said the malathion drifts about 300 feet, so it is inefficient to spray in alleys and streets.

"This way we can make sure we get everything covered," he said.

The two men tasked with driving the fogging trucks will split their days to cover more of the town with insecticide on weekday evenings. According to the city's schedule, southeast and northwest Riverton are slated for malathion on Mondays. On Tuesdays the truck will drive through the north and northeast parts of town. Wednesdays are for the northwest and west sides, Thursdays are southeast and northeast, and Fridays are north and southwest.

Residents are asked to call 856-3687 with any questions about the process.

Correction: This story is corrected from an earlier version. The correction was made Aug. 27.

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