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FOR RELEASE: May 24, 2007
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Protect Yourself Against West Nile Virus Wear Insect Repellent with DEET

Concerns about the recent flooding in Oklahoma and the spring rains have raised issues about mosquitoes and West Nile virus (WNV). Will there be more mosquitoes and more WNV this season compared to previous years? Although it is impossible to predict the future mosquito season, one of the best ways to protect yourself against biting mosquitoes and WNV is to start practicing now the “4 D’s of Defense” say public health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

“The highest risk months for WNV exposure are July through October, but the public should begin protecting themselves now against the seasonal threat of WNV,” said OSDH Deputy State Epidemiologist and State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Kristy Bradley.

The best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites. Begin mosquito prevention activities now around your home and work place. 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. Finally, practice the “4D’s of Defense” against West Nile virus, which 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.

The public health threat from WNV in Oklahoma began five years ago when the first WNV-carrying mosquitoes arrived in the state. “Any person that is bitten by an infected mosquito can develop West Nile disease, but older adults are more likely to develop serious, life-threatening disease,” Bradley said.

No human cases of WNV disease have been identified in Oklahoma thus far in 2007, however, 2006 was the deadliest year for WNV in the state with a total of six deaths and 48 human cases reported to the OSDH. In 2005, there were 31 human cases of WNV and one death.

WNV is transmitted primarily 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 and difficulty walking.

Human and equine cases of West Nile disease are reported on the OSDH Web site at: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/cdd/wnv/index.html. 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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