OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) wants to remind Oklahomans of steps they can take to protect themselves from West Nile Virus (WNV).
Recently, OSDH’s Mosquito Surveillance Program has detected positive WNV pools in Muskogee County and LeFlore County. Multiple weeks of detection, in two different counties, is an indicator that WNV activity is present in the state. OSDH was also notified recently of a WNV infection detected through blood donor screening in a resident of East Central Oklahoma.
In June, OSDH reported the first human case, and death of 2022, caused by the virus in a Central Oklahoma resident. The patient was hospitalized before passing away.
WNV spreads through the bite of an infected mosquito. In Oklahoma, WNV is primarily spread by the Culex mosquito, which feeds on infected birds and then spreads the virus when biting humans, horses, and some other mammals.
This type of mosquito increases in abundance during mid to late summer when temperatures are high, and the weather pattern is dry.
“We wanted to share this information to make Oklahomans aware that WNV is in the state,” said Jolianne Stone, the State Epidemiologist. “With current temperatures in Oklahoma, we know people are participating in outdoor activities which leads to increased opportunities for encountering infected mosquitoes.”
OSDH officials are reminding the public to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
Tips to avoid mosquito bites and prevent WNV:
- Use an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin and clothing when going outdoors, particularly between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more likely to bite. Insect repellent with permethrin should be used on clothing only.
- Repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
- Prevent items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flowerpots, children’s toys and tires from holding water to prevent providing mosquitoes a place to breed.
- Empty pet’s outdoor water bowl and refill daily.
- Scrub and refill bird baths every three days.
- Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged.
While the vast majority of individuals with WNV will likely never experience symptoms following an infection, those with symptoms, are often mild and may include sudden fever, headache, dizziness or muscle weakness.
Recovery typically occurs within one to three weeks.
People older than 50 years, diabetics, or those experiencing uncontrolled hypertension are at a greater risk of developing severe neurologic disease from WNV infection. When the disease affects the nervous system, it can cause confusion or disorientation, loss of consciousness, paralysis, neck stiffness or coma.
Long lasting complications of WNV disease can include difficulty concentrating, migraines, headaches, extreme muscle weakness and tremors, and paralysis of a limb. There is no vaccine or treatment drug for this illness. The best defense is taking steps to avoid mosquito bites.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) protects and improves public health through its system of local health services and strategies focused on preventing disease. OSDH provides technical support and guidance to 68 county health departments in Oklahoma, as well as guidance and consultation to the two independent city-county health departments in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Learn more at Oklahoma.gov/health.