GILLETTE — West Nile virus season may be off to an earlier than usual start in Wyoming this year with the state’s first case involving a Campbell County woman already reported, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
Health Department spokeswoman Kim Deti said she doesn’t know if the early diagnosis is a sign of things to come.
“We haven’t had a lot of high numbers in the last few years,” she said of confirmed cases of West Nile virus.
Deti said most people infected with the virus don’t have symptoms and therefore don’t know they’re infected. Most who do get sick will develop a fever and other symptoms such as headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes.
A very small percentage infected with West Nile develop neuroinvasive disease with symptoms such as severe headache, fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions and paralysis, Deti said. That is what the Campbell County woman is dealing with.
“In past years, we typically haven’t seen cases reported until late in July or August,” Clay Van Houten, Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit manager with the Department of Health, said in a press release. “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.”
Since the disease 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.
Mosquitos spread West Nile virus when they feed on infected birds and then bite people, animals or other birds, the state Health Department reports. In 2018, the department was notified of four West Nile cases in Wyoming, including one death in Goshen County.