While Zika virus is highly unlikely to take hold within or near Wyoming, West Nile virus (WNV) is a potential threat for state residents during the summer months, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
Zika virus is spread to people mostly through bites of certain types of infected mosquitos that do not live in Wyoming due to the state’s climate. Other types of mosquitos that do live in the state spread West Nile virus when they feed on infected birds and then bite people, animals and other birds.
Katie Bryan, a WDH epidemiologist, said pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant, as well as their partners, should pay attention to Zika-related travel warnings. “Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where Zika virus is found and has not already been infected can get it from mosquito bites. People who have sex without a condom with a man who has Zika may also be at risk,” she said.
“Zika can be passed from moms to babies during pregnancy and there are strong links between the virus and a brain-related type of birth defect known as microcephaly,” Bryan said. “We want women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to check whether their travel destination is affected by Zika virus and if it is they should consider postponing their plans. Their partners also need to know the risks.”
The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
Like with Zika virus, most people infected with WNV do not know. Among those who become ill, symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes. A very small number develop West Nile neuroinvasive disease with symptoms such as severe headache, fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions and paralysis.
“Avoiding mosquito bites is key with either disease,” Bryan said. “With Zika virus we are talking mostly about travel precautions for Wyoming residents. With West Nile virus, there are active steps we should all take.”
The “5 D’s” of WNV prevention include:
1)DAWN and 2) DUSK – Mosquitos that spread WNV prefer to feed at dawn or dusk, so avoid spending time outside during these times.
3) DRESS – Wear shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt outdoors. Clothing should be light-colored and made of tightly woven materials.
4) DRAIN – Mosquitos breed in shallow, stagnant water. Reduce the amount of standing water by draining and/or removing.
5) DEET – Use an insect repellent containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide). When using DEET, be sure to read and follow label instructions. Other insect repellents such as Picaridin (KBR 3023) or oil of lemon eucalyptus can also be effective.
Since WNV first appeared in Wyoming in 2002, reported human cases each year have ranged from two with no deaths to 393 and nine deaths. To date, Zika virus has not been confirmed in any Wyoming resident.
More information and detailed advice about Zika virus, including frequently updated travel warnings, can be found online at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html.