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Wyoming Dept Of Health Reports Rare Human Case of Pneumonic Plague

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Department of Health on Wednesday announced the detection of a rare but serious case of pneumonic plague in a northern Fremont County resident.

The department was tight-lipped about other details except that the individual who contracted the ailment had contact with sick cats.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer, said while the risk for humans to contract plague is very low in Wyoming, the disease has been documented throughout the state in domestic and wild animals.

“It’s safe to assume that the risk for plague exists all around our state,” Harrist said. “While the disease is rare in humans, it is important for people to take precautions to reduce exposure and to seek prompt medical care if symptoms consistent with plague develop.”

An outbreak of pneumonic plague was reported earlier this month in Madagascar. Seven individuals are reported dead and another 22 are hospitalized.

The last large outbreak of pneumonic plague in the country occurred in 2017 and infected more than 2,400 people and killed more than 200.

Plague is a bacterial infection that can be deadly to humans and other mammals, including pets, if not treated promptly with antibiotics. This disease can be transmitted to humans from sick animals or by fleas coming from infected animals.

Pneumonic plague is the most serious form and is the only form that can be spread from person to person. Pneumonic plague can develop from inhaling infectious droplets or may develop from untreated bubonic or septicemic plague.

Plague can also be transmitted from person to person through close contact with someone who has pneumonic plague. Individuals with a known exposure to plague require post-exposure treatment with antibiotics to help prevent illness. 

This human plague case is the seventh thought to be acquired in Wyoming since 1978. Other recorded Wyoming cases include a 1978 out-of-state case acquired in Washakie County, a 1982 Laramie County case, a 1992 Sheridan County case that resulted in death, a 2000 Washakie County case, a 2004 out-of-state case acquired in Goshen County, and a 2008 out-of-state case acquired in Teton County.

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Dept of Health Warns Public About Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever & Colorado Tick Fever

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

After a more than a year of doing everything we could to protect ourselves against microscopic bugs, as summer rolls around, we need to start watching out for actual insects.

It is well known that ticks, mosquitoes and other insects common to Wyoming often carry diseases that are a threat to both people and animals in the summer.

But according to Kim Deti with the Wyoming State Health Department, one of the most common diseases associated with ticks, Lyme disease, isn’t too much of a threat here.

“You’ll hear a lot nationally about Lyme disease,” she says, “but we do not have the kind of ticks in Wyoming that carry Lyme disease.”

But Deti noted that other tick-borne illnesses are definitely something to watch for, such as tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) and Colorado tick fever (CTF). 

Tularemia symptoms include fever, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, skin ulcers and diarrhea. 

If the bacteria are inhaled, symptoms can include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness and pneumonia. 

Initial RMSF symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, lack of appetite and severe headache. Later signs and symptoms may include rash, abdominal pain, joint pain and diarrhea. 

And CTF usually causes fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and, occasionally, a rash.

But it’s not just tick bites that can spread those dangerous diseases.

“If a person handles an animal that’s infected with tularemia, like a rabbit or rodents, that can be a risk for the person for those tick-borne diseases,” Deti said.

One illness that made headlines for years has been on the decline in Wyoming recently, according to Deti.

“West Nile Virus has certainly been at a much lower level in Wyoming for the last several years,” she said, “but we do want people to prevent those mosquito bites.”

West Nile virus (WNV) is spread by mosquitoes when they feed on infected birds and then bite people, animals or other birds.

While most people infected with WNV don’t have symptoms, others can experience 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.

But humans aren’t the only creatures who face danger from tiny threats. 

Jim Logan, the Wyoming State Veterinarian, said there are a number of insects that can transmit diseases to livestock and pets.

“In addition to mosquitoes and ticks, and certainly those are a big factor in disease transmission, there are also the deer flies and horse flies,” he said. “Those types of things can carry such diseases as vesicular stomatitis, which I hope we don’t see this year — but we’re entering the season when typically that is going to be a possibility.”

Logan says that particular disease is very similar to foot and mouth disease, which impacts the ability for animals to eat, walk or reproduce. 

“It’s indistinguishable from Foot and Mouth Disease, which always scares the state veterinarian because of the risks of the disease getting into this country and the effect that would have on the economy,” he points out. “And there is no vaccine for vesicular stomatitis.”

Logan added that Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, blue tongue and other diseases carried by tiny midges and other insects are a real danger to Wyoming livestock. 

“Insect control is really the major prevention,” he explained. “There are sprays, insecticides and repellants, but repellants need to be applied once or twice a day in order to be effective.”

Logan noted that while vaccines exist for mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile and Western Equine Encephalitis, the best defense is to reduce the risk of infection through prevention.

The same advice given by the Health Department to help humans keep safe from insect-borne illnesses can be followed to protect animals as well, Logan said.

The five “D’s” of insect prevention, for both people and animals, are:

1) DAWN and 2) DUSK – Mosquitos 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. Picaridin (KBR 3023) or oil of lemon eucalyptus can also be effective.

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Niobrara County Tops in Wyoming For Smokers; Double National Average

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The percentage of smokers in Wyoming’s smallest county is almost twice the state average and is more than double the national average, according to a state report.

The report “Wyoming and County Profiles,” prepared by the state’s Economic Analysis Division by compiling results of various state studies, found that 34.1% of Niobrara’s 2,422 residents reported that they had smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes and were currently smoking.

The percentage is the highest in the state and is far above Wyoming’s average of 18.4% residents who identify themselves as smokers.

However, Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said the figure may be skewed by Niobrara County’s low population.

“I wouldn’t be surprised that Niobrara County numbers are affected by their low population and likely low number of participants in the survey that was the source of that information,” she told Cowboy State Daily.

Wyoming itself ranks 14th in the nation for the percentage of its population that smokes, according to the United Health Foundation.

The percentage of people nationally who identify themselves as smokers is 14%.

Deti said while it may be difficult to say with certainty why Wyoming has a percentage of smokers, several factors may be playing into the number.

“Potential factors include social and cultural attitudes and low perception of harm, low tobacco taxes and no statewide smoke-free policies,” she said. “Some of these factors have been linked to lower smoking rates in other states.”

Following Niobrara County for the highest percentage of smokers, according to the report, is Hot Springs County at 24.5% and Weston County at 24.3%.

At the other end of the spectrum is Teton County at 10.1%.

However, Jodie Pond, Teton County’s health director, said the county has a high percentage of people who use “vapes” rather than cigarettes.

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Teton County Has Lowest Percentage Of Obese People

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

It could be the snow and all the fresh air.
It could be the outdoor fun that is there.
Or maybe the fact that they’re all fitness nuts
Or maybe nobody there likes doughnuts
But in the land where mountains rise like a steeple
Are the fewest of the few of Wyoming’s fat people.
(With apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Whatever the reason, Teton County is the slimmest county in the state, according to recently released state figures.

Figures released last week by the state Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division showed only 12.2% of Teton County’s residents have a body mass index higher than 30, the lowest percentage in the state.

The figures were included in the Economic Analysis Division’s annual “Wyoming and County Profiles” publication, which provides information about demographics, health information, vehicle ownership and more on a county-by-county basis.

A body mass index or BMI is derived through a formula involving a person’s height and weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person with a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. 

Statewide, about 29.7% of Wyoming residents have a BMI of 30 or higher.

The highest percentage of obese people in the state, according to the report, was found in Goshen County, where 38.3% of the residents have a BMI of 30 or higher.

Health officials in Teton and Goshen counties were not immediately available to comment on the report.

Teton County residents appear to just be healthy overall, also boasting the smallest percentage of cigarette smokers in the state.

The report said only 10.1% of the county’s residents reported they had smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes and were still smoking.

By contrast, in Niobrara County, 34.1% of the residents identified themselves as smokers.

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Riverton Medical District Signs Letter of Intent to Affiliate with Billings Clinic

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Staff reports

A group of Riverton business and community leaders on Wednesday announced plans to build a new hospital in Riverton. 

The Riverton Medical District announced that it signed a Letter of Intent to pursue affiliation and clinical partnership with Billings Clinic, cementing the group’s strong focus on local health care with a trusted partner. 

The partnership with Riverton adds to Billings Clinic’s relationships in numerous Wyoming communities including Basin, Lovell, Powell, and two clinics in Cody. 

Billings Clinic is an independent not for profit, physician-led and community governed organization that is affiliated with (not owned by) the Mayo Clinic as a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network. 

Billings Clinic brings experience in rural health care, and the Riverton facility would join 16 other health care facilities across Montana and Wyoming in addition to the tertiary care center in Billings, as part of Billings Clinic’s growing health system. 

“This is not just a win, it is a mammoth victory to have signed a Letter of Intent with Billings Clinic to be our clinical and management partner. They are a nationally recognized health system with a laser focus on advancing care in local communities in Montana and Wyoming. They were our first choice as a partner, offering unique experience that will keep our hospital locally owned and governed,” said Corte McGuffey, Riverton Medical District. 

“We reached out to other communities that work with Billings Clinic and received excellent feedback, including Beartooth Billings Clinic in Red Lodge, Montana.”

“In 2002, Beartooth Billings Clinic was looking for a partner who shared the same values as our Board and community. Lutheran Health Systems (now Banner Health) had exited our community in 1991 and we were leery of establishing another relationship. Billings Clinic not only shared our values, they guided our effort to achieve our ultimate goal – a new hospital. 

Today, ten years later, our organization is growing and thriving,” said Kelley Evans, CEO, Beartooth Billings Clinic.  

“We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with the Riverton Medical District because their core values align with ours. The ability to connect Riverton with the other communities we serve will help increase clinical services and advance patient care in the community,” said Dr. Clint Seger, Regional Chief Medical Officer, Billings Clinic. “Sustaining and growing health care services locally is a top priority for Billings Clinic.”

The next step for moving this project forward is approval of a low-interest loan of more than $40 million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Riverton Medical District has met with the USDA on several occasions and the application process is now fully underway. “Our community has been so supportive of our efforts, including our collaboration with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe to secure land,” said McGuffey. “We are grateful for this support and are excited to bring these plans to fruition.”

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Wyoming Ambulance Services Facing Funding Emergency

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By Elyse Kelly, The Center Square

Wyoming’s ambulance services have reached a state of emergency as funding in many counties dries up.

Fremont, Sweetwater, Weston counties will all lose Emergency Medical Services (EMS) on July 1 if funding cannot be found for the program. Sweetwater and Weston both have potential solutions, but in Fremont, Wyoming’s second-largest county by landmass, no one has stepped forward to fill the gap, according to Luke Sypherd, president of the Wyoming Emergency Medical Services Association.

Wyoming’s funding structure for EMS is unsustainable, Sypherd said, and the overhead for running an ambulance service is costly.

“There are only 11 states in the United States that require EMS to be provided by law,” Sypherd told The Center Square.

Wyoming isn’t one of them, which is resulting in funding for EMS hitting the chopping block before other required services.

Subsidized labor through volunteers has kept Wyoming’s EMS afloat in the past, but that base is shrinking because of an increase in calls and the technicality and costs of maintaining EMS training.

Unlike fire and police, ambulances aren’t reimbursed for calls unless they transport a patient to a hospital. In addition, Medicaid and Medicare only cover somewhere between one-third and one-sixth of the cost of an ambulance trip, leaving a huge funding gap. 

The COVID-19 crisis sped these issues to a breaking point, Sypherd said. Funding dropped out as lower tax revenues combined with fewer reimbursable ambulance trips as EMT’s were encouraged to treat patients at home rather than taking them to hospitals.

Sypherd said one way to reduce costs is by restructuring to make services regional rather than every town having an EMS. This would result in cost savings because many positions could be consolidated into one and infrastructure could be used to cover a wider range.

“You have economy of scale for purchasing power within hospitals, you having a deeper staffing pool,” Sypherd said.

Cody Regional Health hospital runs a regionalized EMS that serves all of western Park County.

Even restructured, EMS still needs funding. Sypherd said there has to be some local or state tax-based revenue to help cover the costs of EMS. He suggests a list of possibilities already in use in some places, like a license plate tax, special health districts within a county, or sales tax.

“Very unpopular—people don’t like to pay taxes, but again when a government health insurance plan isn’t covering the cost of health care then the money has to come from somewhere else,” Sypherd said.

Sypherd also insisted EMS must be made a mandated essential service.

“Law enforcement and fire certainly are essential services, but then some of the other things that counties and cities are required to provide by law, you can’t tell me those are as essential as emergency medical services like 911,” Sypherd said.

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Gillette Hospital Accidentally Breaches Personal Info of 900 Patients

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette hospital accidentally released the personal health information of 900 patients earlier this month with an email attachment.

Someone from Campbell County Health sent an email to a single person with an unintended attachment that contained patient information including names, account numbers and types of insurance.

“We take our role of safeguarding our patient’s personal information and using it in an appropriate manner very seriously,” said Colleen Heeter, CEO. “Campbell County Health apologizes for any concern this situation has caused our patients, is doing everything we can to rectify it, and ensure that it will not happen again.”

The breach was discovered within the hour and CCH officials immediately contacted the recipient, who was directed on how to permanently delete the attachment from email and all devices.

Hospital officials believe that any potential harm resulting from this breach has been mitigated and all affected individuals have been contacted.

The hospital has taken all appropriate steps to investigate the breach, including reporting to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and following internal policies and protocols, it said in a statement.

Process changes will be implemented in the organization based on the outcome of the investigation.

All CCH employees will be required to participate in additional education and training on best practices in protecting health information.

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SageWest: Please #MaskUp

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SageWest Health Care and LifePoint Health are proudly joining our community partners and hundreds of hospitals across the country in asking you to #MaskUp.

COVID-19 continues to sweep through our community, and we’re fighting hard to keep on providing quality care and keep our patients and employees safe and protected. But we need your help.

Wearing a mask is our best defense against the spread of COVID-19 until vaccines are available. If we all do our part and fight together, we’ll get through this. Together. #MaskUp 

To view the video, click HERE. https://youtu.be/_78RinSRaJs

www.EveryMaskUp.com

Good News: Wyoming is Not the Fattest State In the Nation

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Although Wyoming is surrounded by much more fit states, at least we find ourselves in the lowest half of the fattest states in America (lowest meaning good).

A new survey came out today which ranked the fattest states in America.

The fattest states?  No surprise.  All in the south. West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas take top honors, according to Wallet Hub.

Wyoming, on the other hand, ranked 31st in the nation. If you are feeling cocky, don’t look at Utah or Colorado (49th or 51st respectively). Don’t look up either. Montana ranks 45th. Even Nebraska beats us (at 40th).

The reason for the survey is not to fat-shame, they say. They point to “health consequences” of fatness — mostly diabetes.

“Fat is becoming the new normal in America,” the report reads. “According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than seven in 10 U.S. adults aged 20 and older are either overweight or obese.”

The U.S. spends nearly $200 billion in annual health care costs related to obesity, the report said.

The study, curiously, then lists the top 50 comfort foods for each state. Wyoming does very well in this respect.

Buffalo jerky is number one for our state — which comes in at 240 calories per serving.

That compares with fried cheese curds in Wisconsin (home of Chris Farley) — which has 1,190 calories per serving.

Nevada’s choice of comfort food calls seems logical.  “Hotel buffets” are listed as its residents’ top choice with 1,000 calories — although 5,000 calories seems more logical.

Maybe Wallet Hub should employ a fact-checker for that one. But definitely they need a spellchecker.  They list “pasties” as the top food item in Michigan.

Maybe but the pasties look more like “pastries” in the accompanying graphic. Or maybe they are just really weirdly shaped pasties.

CORRECTION: We’ve been told by many, many readers that pasties are not just things that strippers wear. They are actual food. We stand corrected.

Maybe there’s a reason that Utah comes in 51st with its choice of top comfort food. Something called “funeral potatoes” is the top choice. That, like Wyoming’s buffalo jerky, has a paltry 240 calories.

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Gordon Allocating CARES Funds To Help With Wyoming Insurance Enrollment

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Friday that he is directing federal CARES funds to assist Wyoming residents in signing up for health insurance this fall.

Gordon is allocating $600,000 to be used for the Enroll Wyoming program, which will be used to hire trained enrollment counselors to provide outreach, education and assistance. This will also ensure Wyomingites are made aware of the upcoming open enrollment period for insurance coverage (Nov. 1 – Dec. 15).

“Wyoming is facing increased numbers of uninsured residents as a result of the pandemic,” Gordon said. “This assistance is an important resource for those seeking health insurance during these challenging times.”

The enrollment counselors will work with community partners, such as libraries, community colleges, workforce centers, public health nursing offices and more, to identify individuals who need assistance enrolling in the federal insurance marketplace.

The Enroll Wyoming program is a collaborative effort between Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s Institute for Population Health, the Wyoming Primary Care Association, which operates the statewide community health centers, and Wyoming 2-1-1.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, federal funding for the Enroll Wyoming program in Wyoming has been cut by 83%.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to help meet the increased need for health insurance during this pandemic by building on our efforts over the last seven years of providing enrollment services,” Amy Spieker, CRMC’s director of community health and analysis, said. “Enroll Wyoming is an excellent example of how Wyoming organizations come together to care for our neighbors during tough times.”

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