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FOR RELEASE: August 26, 2002
State Health Officials Announce Two Probable Human Cases of West Nile Virus
The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced today that it is waiting on final confirmation of two probable human cases of West Nile virus disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The cases involve a 69-year-old Washington County man, who may have acquired the disease out of state, as well as a 12-year-old Tulsa County boy.
Both tested presumptively positive in tests conducted by the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratory. The specimens were sent for confirmatory testing to the CDC.
Both individuals developed encephalitis and were hospitalized. After receiving supportive treatment, both are now home recovering from their illness.
“With the rapid spread of West Nile virus in our bird and horse populations, human cases in Oklahoma were not unexpected,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “We are pleased that these individuals are recovering from their illnesses and appear to be doing well.”
West Nile virus is spread to humans by infected mosquitoes. Most persons who become ill with West Nile virus after being bit by an infected mosquito have no symptoms or only mild symptoms of illness such as fever, headache, backache, and muscle weakness lasting two to six days. Less than one percent will develop the more serious complications of encephalitis.
In order to protect themselves and their family members from West Nile virus, Beitsch urged the public to limit outside activity at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are actively feeding.
“If you must be outdoors during early evening or early morning hours, wear clothing with long sleeves and long pants, and apply an insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin and clothing. Do not apply to the skin of children less than 2 years of age, however. Repellents containing less than 30 percent are advised; those with higher concentrations do not mean they will work better, just that they may last longer,” he said.
Health officials also advise reducing mosquito-breeding locations in their yards. Empty and refill birdbaths and pet water daily. Empty buckets, tarps, wading pools, old tires, and any other containers that may hold stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed. Clean out roof gutters and trim grass and weeds regularly to control the mosquito population in the yard.
The current West Nile virus surveillance and education process in Oklahoma involves a coordinated effort among many resources:
As of August 22, 71 birds in 16 counties in Oklahoma have tested positive for West Nile virus. Counties with multiple bird cases include Tulsa (19), Wagoner (15), Ottawa (11), Oklahoma (7), Pittsburg (3), Cleveland (3), Jackson (2), Muskogee (2), and Payne (2). Carter, Logan, Okmulgee, Garfield, Mayes, Haskell, and Rogers counties have each been the origin of one West Nile- positive bird. Since testing resumed in April 2002, 745 birds have been submitted for testing in Oklahoma. (For numbers of birds tested by county, see charts on the Oklahoma State Department of Health Web site at http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/cdd/ow/results.html.)
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