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For Release: Aug. 30, 2012 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601

State Health Officials Remind Oklahomans: Enjoy the Holiday, but Guard Against Mosquitoes

With 101 Oklahoma West Nile virus cases now confirmed, and five deaths among Oklahomans older than 65, state health officials are reminding all Oklahomans to enjoy their holiday weekend but also to take steps to prevent West Nile virus from ruining more than a weekend.

“We are approaching the 2007 record for the most cases in one year,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “It appears we will shatter that record since West Nile virus will be with us until the first freeze.  We all need to remember to guard against mosquito bites by using insect repellents while outdoors this weekend.”

The previous record for Oklahoma West Nile virus cases was 107 in 2007.  Officials expect to easily surpass that record by the end of the West Nile virus season in November.

State health officials are asking Oklahomans over the age of 65 and those who care for them to use special care as the most severe result of West Nile Virus, neuroinvasive disease, most often affects the elderly.

“Although West Nile virus is dangerous for all ages, all of the deaths have been elderly Oklahomans,” Cline said.  “It is certainly worth taking extra care by using insect repellent and draining standing water this season to avoid a crippling and potentially fatal illness.”

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) suggests using an EPA-registered insect repellent such as those containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Products with a higher percentage of DEET as an active ingredient generally give longer protection. Permethrin sprayed on clothing provides protection through several washes, but the product should not be sprayed on skin.  Recently, IR3535 was approved as an active ingredient. Regardless of what product you use, if insects are still biting, you should reapply the product according to label instructions, try a different product, or leave the area with biting insects. The OSDH offered these insect repellent recommendations:

  • Products containing up to 30 percent DEET can be used on children.
  • Use aerosols or pump sprays for skin and treating clothing because they provide even application.
  • Use liquids, creams, lotions, towelettes or sticks for more precise application to exposed skin, e.g., face or neck.
  • After your outdoor activity, wash repellent-treated skin with soap and water.
  • Don’t over apply or saturate skin or clothing.
  • Don’t apply to skin under clothing.
  • Don’t apply more frequently than directed on the product label.

The OSDH also reminded Oklahomans to empty those items in your yard that can hold standing water so mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed. Birdbaths and animal watering areas should be cleaned and refilled every two to three days, or treated with mosquito dunks to kill mosquito larvae. Finally, double check your window and door screens to make sure they are in good shape and can keep mosquitoes out.

For more information on WNV prevention, visit www.health.ok.gov, or call your local county health department.

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