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By The Smartencyclopedia Newsroom with Agencies

Cheyenne, Wyo. (AP) — Following a record year for West Nile Virus (WNV) cases in Wyoming, the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council is urging residents to take precautions to reduce their chances of contracting the virus as the state braces for another potentially active year.

The Wyoming Department of Health reported a sharp increase in WNV cases, from three in 2022 to 27 in 2023, making Wyoming’s incidence rate of 4.8 cases per 100,000 people significantly higher than the national average of 0.7. The state also recorded its first WNV-related fatalities since 2018, with four deaths last year.

Spring conditions, with warmer weather and increased standing water from snowmelt, create ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, the primary carriers of WNV. While many mosquito species are harmless, some can transmit the potentially deadly virus.

Rise in Equine Cases

Horses are also at considerable risk, with 50 reported cases in 2023, up from just one in 2022. This spike underscores the importance of vigilance and preventive measures for livestock as well as humans.

Surveillance and Control Efforts

The Wyoming Weed and Pest Council, in collaboration with local districts, is actively monitoring and controlling mosquito populations. In Sheridan, efforts include collecting mosquito larvae to predict the emergence of adult mosquitoes and assess whether they pose a nuisance or carry WNV.

“We bring them back to our office and watch their development daily and try to determine when the adults will start hatching,” said Brian Songer, Assistant Supervisor of Sheridan County Weed and Pest.

Songer explained that mosquitoes carrying WNV can survive through the winter and potentially spread the virus the following year. Additionally, birds that consume infected mosquitoes can transmit the disease to humans and horses, although birds less resilient to the virus are less likely to survive and spread it further.

“We are very concerned that the trend will continue and that’s why we’ve ramped up our program, trying to get out and predict where the mosquitoes are and make our larval treatments more effective,” said Songer.

Prevention Tips for Residents

Given the ongoing threat, the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council recommends several steps to reduce the mosquito population and prevent bites:

Minimize Standing Water Sources:

  • Eliminate potential breeding grounds such as buckets, tires, and ponds.
  • Address over-irrigated soils and blockages in culverts.

Prevent Bites:

  • Wear mosquito-proof or long-sleeved clothing.
  • Treat boots, pants, and socks with approved insect repellent.
  • Apply repellent to babies and children using their hands to avoid sensitive areas.

Vaccinate Horses:

  • Vaccinate horses against WNV in the spring.
  • Use fans and sprays to protect horses and keep them indoors during peak mosquito activity at dawn and dusk.

Know the Symptoms:

  • Symptoms of WNV include headaches, fevers, nausea, joint pain, diarrhea, and rashes.
  • Seek medical attention if symptoms occur and report any cases to the council.

Community Coordination

Local organizations across Wyoming are coordinating efforts to monitor and mitigate the risk of WNV. These initiatives include regular communication with the Wyoming Department of Health and emergency management coordinators to share information and strategies.

“Everybody’s communicating. Everybody’s aware that there’s potential out there and they’re looking for the symptoms,” Songer said. “That same idea is pretty prevalent across the state, I think. Teton County, Cheyenne, Laramie — all those places have similar programs in place.”

For more information on WNV symptoms and prevention, visit the CDC’s website. To report cases or concerns, contact the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council through their contact page.

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