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West Nile rate lower in state than nationally

Sep 6, 2012 - By Becky Orr, MCT News Service

CHEYENNE -- Although a record number of West Nile virus cases has been reported nationwide, Wyoming's numbers are low.

As of Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports of 2,118 human cases of the virus and 92 deaths nationwide.

A CDC official said the tally is the highest number of cases ever reported to the agency through the first week in September since the virus started showing up in the United States.

Texas is experiencing its worst year ever for West Nile virus. At least 40 people have died.

So far this season, four human cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in Wyoming. No one has died.

Wyoming is not preparing for a major jump in cases because of events in Texas, Deti said.

But officials cannot predict such activity, she added.

"We do know that weather can make a difference," she said.

So can mosquito control efforts and the choices people make to protect themselves, Deti said.

Like many local governments in Wyoming, the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department works to control mosquitoes locally.

Prevention efforts and a hot, dry summer have helped keep the mosquito population lower, said Roy Kroeger, environmental health supervisor for City-County Health.

"I think we've got really good control this year," Kroeger said. "It's been so dry that there is not a huge population of mosquitoes. We've been pretty lucky this summer."

Wyoming's first case in 2012 was reported in an adult male from Crook County. Another case occurred to an adult male from Teton County. It's likely he was exposed in another state, Deti said. Two cases occurred to adult males in Goshen County.

Officials first detected the West Nile virus cases in Wyoming in 2002. The number of people infected has varied widely since.

There were three human cases reported in Wyoming in 2011, six cases and no deaths in 2010, and 12 cases with one death in 2009. In 2008, Wyoming had 10 human cases with no deaths. In 2007, there were 185 human cases with two deaths.

The highest count in Wyoming occurred in 2003 with 393 cases. Of those, nine people died.

There is no official beginning or end to the West Nile virus season, Deti said. Cases have been reported from May to November.

Weather is a determining factor. The first hard freeze where the temperature drops to 25 degrees n kills mosquitoes, Kroeger said.

That means the West Nile virus season isn't over for this year. Early fall is a peak time for getting reports about cases, Deti said, so Wyoming residents need to continue to take precautions.

They should:

- Avoid spending time outside at dawn and dusk.

- Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when mosquitoes are most active.

- Drain standing water around property.

- Use an insect repellent with DEET in it.

Most people infected with West Nile virus do not develop symptoms. Those who do can have fevers, headaches, body aches, skin rashes and swollen lymph nodes.

City-County Health has several programs to control mosquitoes. Ground crews with Cheyenne's weed and pest department treat ponds and standing water around core parts of the city and some of the county.

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