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County Health Officials Urge West Nile Virus Prevention

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COMANCHE COUNTY, Okla._Comanche County Health Department officials encourage residents to take precautions to reduce the risk of contracting West Nile Virus (WNV), a mosquito-borne illness.  Summertime 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 Comanche County Health Department Administrative Director Brandie O'Connor.

Oklahoma experienced a record year of WNV activity last year; 178 cases of WNV were confirmed among Oklahoma residents, including 15 deaths.  Persons of all ages can be affected by WNV.  During 2012, cases ranged in age from 1 to 93 years (median: 59 years).  No cases of WNV have been reported this year to date. 

"Although we cannot predict the severity of this year's WNV season, it's important for everyone to know the highest risk months in Oklahoma for WNV exposure occur from July through October," said O'Connor. "We urge everyone to start protecting themselves now against mosquito bites."

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.

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 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 neurological disease from WNV infection. Some of the neurological effects of WNV may be permanent or fatal.

For more information, contact the Comanche County Health Department at (580) 248-5890, or visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health's WNV website at http://go.usa.gov/wpz.

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