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First West Nile virus case reported in county; it's sixth statewide this year

Sep 19, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

The Wyoming Department of Health confirmed Fremont County had its first reported human case of West Nile virus for the season.

The department's spokeswoman, Kim Deti, said an adult female has contracted the virus.

"With West Nile virus, most people get bitten and are infected, but never even know it," Deti said. "A small percentage gets the West Nile virus fever, which is no fun. This person was ill."

West Nile virus can cause potentially serious illness in humans and horses.

The virus is spread when mosquitoes feed on infected birds and then bite people or horses.

Fremont County's case is the sixth reported statewide for the 2012 season. The first confirmed case in Wyoming was reported in late August and involved an adult male from Crook County.

Weed and Pest District supervisor Lars Baker said his agency has had three positive tests for West Nile in mosquitoes caught in traps in Hudson and Lander this season. However, he called the results "anemic" because of the quality of the testing, and the state health department did not report them.

Baker said the monitoring program and testing doesn't produce positive results any quicker than when a human becomes ill.

"It is not an early warning," he said.

The first local case reported in 2011 occurred around the same time.

Deti said the county's first reported case being in September is not necessarily unusual because the health department has recorded cases as early as May and as late as October in past years.

"The peak is usually late August, early fall," Deti said, adding the danger remains until there are no more mosquitoes for the year. "There are a lot of things we know that affect West Nile virus such as weather and standing water. ... But we can't really put it all together to give a prediction."

Baker said a trapping conducted two weeks ago showed the mosquito population was shrinking.

"There's just a few mosquitoes around right now," he said.

A contributing factor is this year's dry conditions.

"The drought actually gives us fewer mosquitoes," Baker said.

Deti said 185 human cases, with two deaths, were reported in 2007 in Wyoming. One of the deaths occurred in Fremont County, which saw 118 reported cases altogether.

She said three human West Nile cases were reported in the state last year. There were six cases and no deaths in 2010, a dozen cases with one death in 2009 and 10 human cases with no deaths in 2008.

"Around the country, they are having a record-setting year in a number of states," Deti said. "The last few years, we have had lower numbers of cases reported, but we don't want people to assume that is always the case."

Residents are reminded prevention comes down to the five "Ds," which include staying indoors at dawn and dusk because it is when most mosquito species prefer to feed; dress in shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeve shirts while outdoors or when mosquitoes are most active; drain standing water; and use an insect repellent containing DEET.

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