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Fill-in-Blank News Release for County Health Departments

West Nile Virus

Date:               _____

Contact:         _____

Phone:            _____

County Health Officials Warn of West Nile Virus Resurgence

Evidence of a resurgence of West Nile virus (WNV) has _____ County Health Department officials warning _____ County residents to take precautions against the mosquito-borne illness this summer.

Thus far, eight cases of West Nile disease have been confirmed in Oklahoma: four in Tulsa County, two in Pittsburg County, one in Garfield County, and one in Carter County. Almost all of these early cases have been West Nile meningoencephalitis, the most severe form of WNV infection which causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The age range of the affected Oklahomans is 29 – 78 years.  In addition, 14 potential blood donors have tested positive for the virus. Last year only one case of WNV was reported in the state, and no blood donors tested positive for the virus.

“These early numbers indicate we may very well be looking at a dramatic increase in WNV activity in Oklahoma this year,” said _____ County Health Department Administrative Director _____.

July typically marks the beginning of the high risk period for exposure to WNV in Oklahoma, with outdoor activities providing opportunities for encountering WNV-infected mosquitoes. “We want to remind everyone to use insect repellent when outdoors and mosquito-proof their home and yard,” said _____.

West Nile virus is spread through the bite of the Culex mosquito, which feeds on infected birds and then transmits the virus when biting humans, horses, and some other mammals. Symptoms of WNV include sudden onset of fever, headache, dizziness, and muscle weakness. Long-lasting complications can include difficulty concentrating, migraine headaches, extreme muscle weakness and tremors, and paralysis of a limb. 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. Persons over the age of 50 are at greatest risk of developing severe neurologic disease from WNV infection. Some of the neurological effects of WNV may be permanent or fatal.

Among the precautions to take against mosquito bites are the following:

  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors, particularly if you are outside between dusk and dawn when WNV-infected mosquitoes are more likely to bite. (Insect repellent with permethrin should be used on clothing only.)
  • Repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
  • Prevent items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots, and tires from holding standing water so mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed.
  • Empty your pet’s outdoor water bowl and refill daily.
  • Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged.

For more information, contact the _____ County Health Department at (phone number), or visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s WNV website at http://go.usa.gov/wpz.

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