The first reported human case of West Nile virus this year has been traced to Campbell County, according to Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) release June 11. A Campbell County woman has contracted the more serious, neuro-invasive form of the disease, with symptoms ranging from severe headache, fever, disorientation, coma, convulsions, and paralysis.
She is believed to have contracted it locally, according to Kim Deti, public information officer at the WDH, marking an early start to the season.
Typically, WDH officials say, they don’t see their first reported cases until late July or August.
“Wyoming residents should take steps to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites,” said Clay Van Houten, infectious disease epidemiology unit manager with WDH, in the release.
Mosquitos spread West Nile virus (WNV) when they feed on infected birds and then bite people, animals, or other birds. The virus, according to Deti, cannot be spread between humans.
Though early, this first case isn’t inevitably a harbinger of things to come.
“We don’t think this early case necessarily means we’re in for a tough season,” Van Houten said in the release, “but we want people to know they should protect themselves.”
In 2018, WDH documented four WNV cases in Wyoming, including one death in Goshen County. Since the virus first reached Wyoming in 2002, the number of reported human cases has varied widely from year to year.
“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,” Van Houten said.
Sometimes it’s hard to detect, he added, because most people infected with WNV don’t show symptoms that might include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph nodes. It’s rarer yet, he said, for people to develop the more severe neuroinvasive symptoms.
Mosquitos are most active and mornings and evenings, and residents are encouraged to cover up bare skin, wear shoes, and use insect repellent containing DEET.
For more information about WNV in Wyoming, see https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/west-nile-virus/