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FOR RELEASE: August 21, 2003
CONTACT: Leslea Bennet-Webb
Office of Communications  405/271-5601

Oklahoma Reports Eight New Human Cases of West Nile Virus
Health Officials Stress Prevention Tips

The Oklahoma State Department of Health today confirmed eight additional human cases of West Nile virus infection for 2003, bringing the state’s total human cases this year to 11.

Seven of the new cases are in the northwest quadrant of the state. Although all persons in the state should be protecting themselves against mosquito bites, health officials warn persons in the panhandle and other northwest counties to pay particular attention to taking action to protect themselves. In nearby Colorado, state health officials are reporting 492 human cases of West Nile virus.

“We want to stress the importance of taking precautionary steps when being outdoors. Remember to wear mosquito repellent with DEET to protect yourself against mosquito bites,” said Dr. Kristy Bradley, assistant state epidemiologist.

The eight newly confirmed cases include the following:

  • 11-year-old boy from Beckham County
  • 29-year-old man from Texas County
  • 28-year-old woman from Texas County
  • 71-year-old man from Washita County
  • 48-year-old man from Woodward County
  • 51-year-old woman from Ellis County
  • 57-year-old man from Beaver County
  • 67-year-old woman from Tulsa County

Bradley said more of the cases this year appear to be West Nile Fever, which is a milder syndrome than meningitis or encephalitis, so fewer of the reported cases required hospitalization. However, persons with West Nile Fever often require one to two weeks’ recovery at home before they are strong enough to return to work or school.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of the Culex mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. These mosquitoes pass the virus to humans. Only about two of every 10 persons who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness.

To “fight the bite,” health officials suggest three simple action steps:

  • Avoid mosquito bites by covering up bare skin and using insect repellents that contain DEET (N, N diethyl-m-toluamide).
  • Mosquito-proof around your home by emptying standing water, regularly scrubbing and refilling birdbaths and pets’ water dishes, and ensuring that window screens are in good repair.
  • Avoid being outside during the hours of dawn or dusk, when disease-carrying mosquitoes are most active.

For more information about West Nile virus visit these Web sites: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/cdd/ow/index.html and http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.

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