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LANDER – Wyoming needs to prepare for health problems brought on by drought, not just deteriorating crops and livestock, health officials said.

Poor water quality, air-born pathogens and mental stress among farmers can result from drought, for example, officials said during a state-sponsored conference.

The Wyoming Department of Health held the conference last Friday in Fremont County, which has been hardest hit by drought-like conditions.

The goal of such conferences is to encourage local governments to develop plans for drought assistance, similar to efforts made by a statewide task force.

“When people think about drought, they don’t think about planning. They think about what to do on an emergency basis,” said Dr. Karl Musgrave, state epidemiologist.

The state task force recently sent a draft plan for easing the impacts of drought to Gov. Jim Geringer for approval. The draft is modeled after plans developed by the National Drought Mitigation Center, New Mexico and Colorado.

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Dr. Michael Hayes of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, said preparation is needed because drought leads to panic, then apathy when rain falls, setting the stage for more problems.

Education is a key strategy to avoid problems associated with drought, officials said.

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