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West Nile virus: Fact vs. fiction

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- As the number of West Nile virus cases grows, so does the concern among Oklahomans about what's fact and what's fiction when it comes to West Nile.

Are you immune after contracting West Nile virus?

Yes. According to Family Medicine practitioner at Mercy's I-35 clinic, Dr. David Johnson, anyone who has been infected by the West Nile virus will develop a lifetime immunity.

Is there long-term kidney damage with West Nile virus?

According to Dr. Kristy Bradley with the State Health Department, West Nile virus primarily affects the nervous system. There is some speculation that the virus is still present in the kidneys years after infection in a very small percentage of victims but that's not the primary problem and the theory is largely unproven.

Are symptoms worse if you are bitten by more than one infected mosquito?

"It doesn't matter if you get bit by one or multiple mosquitoes," Dr. Johnson said. "Those who are going to get sick will get sick. Of those who get the virus, 75 percent will show no symptoms." 

Why do some people get a rash and some do not?

About 20 to 30 percent will develop a short-lasting skin rash. The rash is a normal viral rash and it should resolve within a few days or weeks of when you get over the infection.

What conditions put you at risk for West Nile virus?

Experts said the most significant factor is age. Also, those with a suppressed immune system are at an increased risk. Researchers say, for reasons they do not yet understand, diabetics are also at high-risk for West Nile virus infection.

Is there an alternative to DEET?

Yes. There are four approved effective mosquito repellents:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (also known as PMD)
  • IR3535

IR3535 is an active ingredient in several Avon Skin So Soft products that have long been know to be effective repellents.

West Nile Stats as of Tuesday, Sept. 11.

  • Total WNV infections in Oklahoma -- 127
  • Hospitalized from WNV -- 77
  • Deaths From WNV -- 8

Click here for the State Health Department Mosquito Repellent fact sheet.

Click here for information from the National Pesticide Information Center.

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