Recent reports of the West Nile Virus in Pittsburg and Tulsa Counties may have some worried, but no cases of WNV have been no confirmed in Rogers County, according to Rogers County Health Department officials.
“So far, we’ve had no (West Nile Virus) reports in Rogers County, and we would hope against there being any this summer,” said Renetta Threet Harrison, health educator, Rogers County Health Department. “This is the time of the year when conditions are right for West Nile Virus, so we would urge people to take precaution so as not to become unfortunate victims (of WNV).”
Although the past few years have been relatively quiet for WNV in the state, Harrison said early indicators may signal a potential rise in Oklahoma cases in 2012.
In 2011, only one case (of WNV) was reported in Oklahoma, but there have been 329 cases and 20 deaths have been reported in the state from the disease since 2002, Harrison said.
Additionally, health authorities in Texas are reporting an increase in human cases and positive mosquito tests this year.
“July typically marks the ‘beginning’ of our high risk period for exposure to WNV in Rogers County and Oklahoma,” she said. “This is also a time when people are spending more time outside — doing yard work, participating in outdoor recreational activities, or relaxing on the patio. All of these activities provide potentials encounters with WNV-infected mosquitoes, everyone should always remember to use insect repellent when outdoors and to mosquito-proof their home and yard.”
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, Harrison said. Among the symptoms (of WNV) are 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,” she said. “If one or more of these symptoms develop, particularly 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,” she said, “and some of the neurological effects of WNV may be permanent.”
Harrison further advised several precautions to protect against mosquito bites, including:
• Using insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors, particularly if you are outside between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more likely to bite. (Insect repellent with permethrin should be used on clothing only.)
• Repairing or installing window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
• Preventing 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 outdoor pet’s water bowl and refilling it daily.
• Cleaning leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged.
With a few precautions and common sense measures to protect against mosquito bits, Harrison said Rogers County residents can look forward to a mosquito-bite-free — if hot — summer.
For more information, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s WNV website at http://www.ok.gov/health/Disease,_Prevention,_Preparedness/Acute_Disease_Service/Disease_Information/Tickborne_and_Mosquitoborne_Diseases/West_Nile_Virus/