Concerns about West Nile virus and, more recently, Zika virus have health officials reminding Wyomingites to avoid mosquitoes.

While its unlikely Zika will rear its ugly head in the Cowboy State, pregnant women and those trying to get 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," said Wyoming Department of Health Epidemiologist Katie Bryan. "People who have sex without a condom with a man who has Zika may also be at risk."

"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," added Bryan.

The most common symptoms of Zika 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, most people infected with West Nile don't know it. 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," said Bryan. "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 West Nile prevention include:

  • DAWN and DUSK - Mosquitoes that spread West Nile prefer to feed at dawn or dusk, so avoid spending time outside during these times.
  • DRESS - Wear shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt outdoors. Clothing should be light-colored and made of tightly woven materials.
  • DRAIN - Mosquitoes breed in shallow, stagnant water. Reduce the amount of standing water by draining and/or removing it.
  • DEET - Use an insect repellent containing DEET. Other insect repellents such as Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus can also be effective.

Since West Nile first appeared in Wyoming in 2002, reported human cases each year have ranged from two with no deaths to 393 with nine deaths. To date, no human cases of Zika have been reported in the state.