OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – West Nile Virus (WNV) activity was recently detected in Oklahoma, and officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health want Oklahomans to know that there are steps they can take to protect themselves.
OSDH’s Mosquito Surveillance Program recently detected positive WNV pools in Muskogee County and LeFlore County.
Detection of the virus in two different counties over multiple weeks indicates that WNV activity is present in the state, OSDH officials said.
The Health Department was recently alerted that a WNV infection was detected through the blood donor screening of an East Central Oklahoma resident.
OSDH reported in June the first human case and death caused by the virus in 2022. The patient was hospitalized before dying.
Infected mosquitos spread WNV to people through bites.
The Culex mosquito primarily spreads the virus in Oklahoma. OSDH officials said the Culex mosquito feeds on infected birds and spreads the virus by biting people, horses and other mammals. The number of Culex mosquitoes increase in mid to late summer when temperatures are high and the weather pattern is dry.
“We wanted to share this information to make Oklahomans aware that WNV is in the state,” said Jolianne Stone, the State Epidemiologist. “With current temperatures in Oklahoma, we know people are participating in outdoor activities which leads to increased opportunities for encountering infected mosquitoes.”
Community members are asked to take the following precautions to prevent mosquito bites:
- Use an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin and clothing when going outdoors, particularly between dusk and dawn when 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 the home.
- Prevent items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flowerpots, children’s toys and tires from holding water to prevent providing mosquitoes a place to breed.
- Empty pet’s outdoor water bowl and refill daily.
- Scrub and refill bird baths every three days.
- Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged.
The large majority of individuals who contract WNV will likely never experience symptoms following infection. Symptoms that occur are often mild and include sudden fever, headache, dizziness or muscle weakness.
Recovery from WNV often happens within one to three weeks.
“People older than 50 years, diabetics, or those experiencing uncontrolled hypertension are at a greater risk of developing severe neurologic disease from WNV infection,” OSDH officials said. “When the disease affects the nervous system, it can cause confusion or disorientation, loss of consciousness, paralysis, neck stiffness or coma.”
WNV disease’s long lasting complications can include difficulty concentrating, migraines, headaches, extreme muscle weakness and tremors and limb paralysis.
“There is no vaccine or treatment drug for this illness,” OSDH officials said. “The best defense is taking steps to avoid mosquito bites.”