By Sarah Elmquist Squires
While Riverton and much of the state broke rainfall records this summer, the increased moisture also ushered in a season ripe with mosquitos – and with them, the first West Nile virus (WNV) human death recorded here in Fremont County.
According to the Wyoming Department of Health, an older Fremont County woman succumbed to the illness and was among 20 human cases in the state this year. Twelve of the cases included severe neuroinvasive illness, with people in Campbell, Fremont, Goshen, Laramie, Natrona, Park, Platte, Sheridan and Washakie counties infected with WNV.
WNV can be spread to humans, horses, and other animals through a bite from a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird. While most humans don’t show symptoms when infected with the disease, people can suffer symptoms ranging from headaches to fever to skin rashes. The most serious cases are rare, but may include neuroinvasive symptoms like severe headaches, stupor, coma, paralysis, convulsions and even death.
“It’s been estimated that for every confirmed neuroinvasive case there man be roughly 30 fever cases. Many, if not most, of these cases have not been identified with testing,” explained Wyoming Department of Health Epidemiologist Courtney Tillman. “This is clearly Wyoming’s most active West Nile virus season in at least a decade and it does not appear to be over yet. It remains important to avoid mosquito bites to help prevent illness with this virus, which can sometimes be quite serious.”
Tips for staying safe
The Wyoming Department of Health advises people to be especially careful at dawn and dusk, when mosquitos are most likely to feed. Wearing shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts outdoors can add a layer of protection, and clothing should be light-colored and made of tightly woven materials. Using a repellent such as DEET is also advised.
Since mosquitos breed in standing water, health officials suggest homeowners be diligent in reducing standing water collecting in things like old tires or barrels.
Learn more by visiting the department of health’s WNV advisory page at badskeeter.org.