The first case of West Nile virus in Wyoming thus far this year has been diagnosed in Campbell County, the state Department of Health announced this week.
It’s an earlier-than-usual debut for the disease, which is spread by mosquitoes. The first case of West Nile is typically reported in late July or early August, according to Clay Van Houten, who’s the manager for the Health Department’s state epidemiology unit.
“We don’t think this early case necessarily means we’re in for a tough season, but we want people to know they should protect themselves,” Van Houten said in a statement, adding that Wyomingites should protect themselves against mosquitoes. The insects pick up West Nile from infected birds, according to the department.
The disease’s prevalence has varied from year to year since it first arrived in Wyoming in 2002, according to the department press release. Last year, there were four cases of West Nile reported in Wyoming, resulting in one death.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 11 cases of West Nile in Wyoming in 2016, including eight that were severe. The year before, there were eight total cases, with three that were severe. In 2014, there were five cases, none that were severe, and no deaths.
Van Houten said it’s also difficult to say whether the department has a full accounting of all cases in the state.
“We expect many people who are ill due to WNV are not getting tested, which makes it difficult to know the true number of cases,” he said in a statement.
Symptoms include fever, head and body aches, swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash. The “very small number” of people — about 1 in 150, according to the World Health Organization — develop neuroinvasive disease, which is a more severe version of West Nile.
The department recommends avoiding spending time outside during dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes most like to feed; wear clothing that covers your skin and is light-colored; drain or remove shall pools of water, where mosquitoes reproduce; and correctly use an insect repellent that contains DEET.