Subscribe for 17¢ / day

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Department of Health officials reiterated Friday their recommended precautions against West Nile virus now that cases have turned up this year in the Dakotas and Minnesota.

Minnesota health officials identified a horse with the virus May 1. A week later, a horse near Fargo, N.D., tested positive.

Thursday, the South Dakota state veterinarian announced the discovery of West Nile in six horses in three counties in northern and eastern South Dakota, according to the Wyoming Health Department.

So far this year, the Health Department has tested six dead birds and samples from six living horses at the State Veterinary Laboratory. All came back negative, Health Department spokesman Ross Doman said.

But the wet spring in much of the state has officials wary.

"All this moisture is good for mosquitoes, too," Doman said.

He encouraged people to take steps to eliminate mosquito breeding sites on their property including old tires and unused cans or plastic containers that can collect standing water. Doman also recommended frequently changing water in bird baths and dog bowls.

Nationwide last year, 4,161 people fell ill with West Nile virus and 284 died. No deaths were in Wyoming.

Doman said that the state will accept dead birds for testing through the end of October, but only crows, magpies, jays, and ravens. He said people should not send dead birds to just any agency but should call the Health Department's toll free number, 1-(877) WYO-BITE for instructions.

Callers are asked to provide their name and phone number, the bird species involved, number dead, address where the bird was found and approximate date of death. If a bird or birds are suitable for testing, callers will be advised how to handle and submit the carcass.

Not every bird that is submitted will be tested, he said, because it may be too decomposed, the wrong species or because many birds have already been submitted from the same area.

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.