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FOR RELEASE: August 10 , 2007
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

First Oklahoman Dies from West Nile Virus This Year
Don’t Forget to Wear Insect Repellent with DEET

Today, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced the first human death from West Nile virus (WNV) of the 2007 season. The deceased was an Ottawa County man over age 65. He had experienced symptoms of neurologic disease, the most severe form of West Nile virus infection.

There are three human cases reported statewide with one each in Oklahoma, Ottawa, and Woodward counties, as of August 9, 2007. In 2006 there were six deaths and 48 human cases reported to the OSDH and in 2005, there were 31 human cases of WNV and one death.

“WNV has become an established mosquito-borne disease threat in Oklahoma, and August through October are the highest risk months for exposure to WNV in our State. Prevention of mosquito bites is key to lower one’s risk of getting West Nile disease. We want Oklahomans—especially those over the age of 50-- to take extra precautions now, namely using an insect repellent with DEET when outdoors and following the four Ds of West Nile Defense,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley.

The “4D’s of Defense” against West Nile virus, include the following:

  • Dusk and dawn – Wear repellent if outdoors during these prime times for mosquito activity.
  • Dress – Wear long pants, long sleeves and closed toe shoes 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.

Because virus-carrying mosquitoes can also get indoors, check door and window screens and repair any tears or gaps. Clean out leaves and other debris in rain gutters to keep them flowing freely. Fix leaky faucets or irrigation spouts, and adequately maintain pools.

WNV is primarily transmitted by Culex mosquitoes. These mosquitoes pick up the virus when they feed on infected birds, and then spread the virus when they bite humans, horses and some other mammals. Culex mosquitoes are most active during the evening and early morning hours and can enter homes through open windows or doors.

Common symptoms of West Nile disease include fever, intense headache, extreme tiredness, muscle weakness, and dizziness. Persons with West Nile encephalitis, the most serious form of WNV disease, may rapidly progress to mental confusion, difficulty walking, and coma.

Horse owners are reminded to contact their veterinarian for information on how to protect their horses from WNV through vaccination. There is no vaccine yet for humans.

For more information about West Nile virus, 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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