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FOR RELEASE: June 29 , 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

West Nile Virus Season Begins in Oklahoma
Positive Mosquitoes Identified But No Human Cases Yet Confirmed

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) says mosquitoes collected earlier this month from mosquito pools in Payne County have tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV). This is the earliest in the WNV season that threshold levels of WNV have been identified in mosquitoes. However, no human cases of West Nile disease have been confirmed in Oklahoma yet this year.

The test-positive mosquitoes were collected June 8 and June 14 in Payne County by entomologists at the Oklahoma State University (OSU). Four pools of Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes (a.k.a “Southern House Mosquito”) tested positive for WNV.

For the past three seasons, the OSDH has contracted with the OSU Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology to conduct mosquito trapping and testing for WNV in various Oklahoma communities. OSU entomologists identify the type of mosquitoes collected in traps and then combine, or “pool” 25 to 50 of the same type of mosquito to perform a WNV test.

Public health officials say that June is the earliest month in Oklahoma that they have detected threshold levels of WNV in mosquitoes. Previously, the first pools of WNV-infected mosquitoes were identified in mid-July. Three crows found dead in the Tulsa area have also tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus this month.

“July typically marks the beginning of our high risk period for exposure to West Nile virus in Oklahoma. It is also a time when Oklahomans are busy with yard work, participating in outdoor recreational activities, or just relaxing on the patio,” said Deputy State Epidemiologist and Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Kristy Bradley. “All of these activities provide possible encounters with WNV-infected mosquitoes, so we want to remind everyone to resume their basic mosquito control prevention steps and to wear mosquito repellent when they are outside.”

Bradley recommended following outdoor safety precautions using the “4 Ds of Defense” against WNV:

  • Dress – Wear clothes that cover as much exposed skin as comfortably possible.
  • DEET – Use an insect repellent containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) when outdoors and reapply according to directions.
  • Dusk to dawn – Be sure to apply mosquito repellent during this prime time for mosquito activity.
  • Drain – Drain those items that collect standing water around your home, yard or business. Scrub and refill outdoor pet water dishes and birdbaths regularly.

Symptoms of West Nile disease vary among individuals and may include fever, intense headache, extreme tiredness, muscle weakness, and dizziness. Persons over the age of 50 are more likely to have serious disease involving the central nervous system. If one or more of these symptoms develop, especially after suffering mosquito bites within the previous two weeks, a health care provider should be contacted. A simple blood test can be done to diagnose West Nile disease. There is no specific treatment once a person has been infected with WNV.

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

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