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FOR RELEASE: September 25, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Health Officials Urge Oklahomans to Continue to Fight the Bite

The Oklahoma State Department of Health today confirmed nine new cases of West Nile virus, bringing to 43 the total number of human cases reported thus far in Oklahoma this year. This new case count is already double the number of human West Nile infections that were diagnosed in the state all of last year.

“Even though fall has arrived and temperatures are cooling off, we know from our 2002 experience that many human West Nile virus infections will occur in September and October,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Kristy Bradley. “The threat of acquiring West Nile virus remains statewide, so Oklahomans need to make sure they continue to protect themselves and their family members from mosquito bites.”

The newly confirmed cases include the following:

  • 81-year-old woman from Okmulgee County
  • 58-year-old woman, 42-year-old man, and 36-year-old man Texas County
  • 59-year-old woman from Woodward County
  • Teenage boy from Woods County
  • 27-year-old man from LeFlore County
  • 38-year-old man and 13-year-old boy from Tulsa County

Only about two of every 10 persons who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. However, even persons who get the milder form of West Nile disease called “West Nile Fever” will often have symptoms of severe headache, dizziness, nausea, muscle weakness and extreme fatigue lasting for several days. Older adults over the age of 50 have a higher risk of developing inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) following infection with West Nile virus, which can prove fatal.

Recent surveillance findings in birds, horses and trapped mosquitoes provide evidence of continuing transmission of West Nile virus in several areas of Oklahoma. Culex mosquitoes collected during the second week of September in Wagoner, Carter, and Kay counties have tested positive for West Nile virus. Additional West Nile-infected birds were reported this week from Beaver, Kay, Cleveland, Oklahoma, Tulsa, Okmulgee, Muskogee, Washington, Jackson, Comanche, and LeFlore counties.

Bradley reminded Oklahomans that following these simple tips will help “fight the bite.”

  • Avoid mosquito bites by covering up bare skin and using insect repellents that contain DEET (N, N diethyl-m-toluamide) before going outside.
  • Mosquito-proof around your home by emptying standing water, regularly scrubbing and refilling birdbaths and pets’ water dishes, and ensuring that window and door screens are in good repair.
  • Empty or cover swimming pools or wading pools that are not in use.
    Keep rain gutters clean and free of debris.
  • 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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