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FOR RELEASE: May 26 , 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Time to Take Precautions As West Nile Virus Season Starts
Bird Tracking Halts – Resources To Target Prevention

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has used dead wild bird tracking and testing to monitor West Nile virus activity in the state for four years. Today, public health officials announced that the dead bird surveillance program has been discontinued. Now that West Nile virus is an established seasonal health threat in Oklahoma, public health resources will be focused toward community mosquito control and disseminating prevention messages to the public.

“Oklahomans were tremendously helpful in reporting and delivering dead birds to our local health departments for West Nile virus testing and we learned much about the pattern and spread of this new virus through that program. We now know that July through October are the highest risk months for exposure to West Nile virus, so it is time to begin mosquito control prevention activities around your home and business,” said Interim State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley.

Bradley suggested remembering the “4 D’s of Defense” to protect against West Nile virus:

  • Dusk and dawn – Avoid outdoor activities during these prime times for mosquito activity.
  • Dress – Wear long pants and long sleeves when outside to cover the skin.
  • DEET – Use an insect repellent containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) when outdoors and reapply according to directions.
  • Drain – Drain those items that collect standing water around your home, yard or business. Scrub and refill pet water dishes and bird baths regularly.

The OSDH will continue West Nile virus surveillance activities that include mosquito trapping and testing in some communities and investigating reported cases of illness in people and horses. Since the virus made its way into Oklahoma during the summer of 2002, 122 Oklahomans have been diagnosed with West Nile disease; five have died.

Adults over the age of 50 are at greatest risk of developing encephalitis (brain inflammation) if infected with West Nile virus. Symptoms of West Nile disease include fever, intense headache, extreme tiredness, muscle weakness, and dizziness.

Human and equine cases of West Nile disease will continue to be reported by county on the OSDH web site at: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/cdd/wnv. Horse owners are reminded to contact their veterinarian for information on how to protect their horses from WNV through vaccination.

The OSDH will also continue to work with local communities and county health departments to direct community mosquito control interventions, such as larvicide treatment of standing water, spraying for adult mosquitoes, and collection of old tires and roadside trash.

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

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