Officials with the Cherokee County Health Department have confirmed the year’s first case of West Nile Virus has been reported here.
WNV, a mosquito-borne illness, normally surfaces during the summer in Oklahoma as outdoor activities increase. Until recently, cooler weather prevailed in this area.
Cherokee County residents are urged to take precautions to reduce the risk of contracting WNV.
“We want to remind everyone to use insect repellent when outdoors and mosquito-proof their home and yard,” said CCHD Administrative Director Maria Alexander.
Alexander said Oklahoma logged a record year of WNV activity in 2012: 176 cases of WNV were confirmed, and 15 of the victims died. Cases ranged in age from 1 to 93 years.
“Anyone can be bitten by a mosquito and acquire WNV,” said Alexander.
“Although we cannot predict the severity of this year’s WNV season, it is important for everyone to know the highest-risk months in Oklahoma for WNV exposure occur from July through October.”
Among the precautions to take against mosquito bites:
• Use an insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing when going outdoors, particularly 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 the 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 outdoor water bowls of pets and refill daily.
• Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged.
WNV is spread through the bite of the Culex mosquito, which feeds on infected birds and then transmits the virus when biting humans, horses, and certain other mammals.
Symptoms 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,” Alexander said.
People over age 50 are at greatest risk of developing severe neurologic disease from WNV infection. Some neurological effects of WNV may be permanent or fatal.
For more information on WNV, contact the Cherokee County Health Department at (918) 456-8826, or visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s WNV website at go.usa.gov/wpz.