The first case of West Nile virus (WNV) disease for the 2016 mosquito season in Oklahoma has been confirmed in a Pittsburg County resident. In addition, collections of mosquitoes which tested positive for WNV have been previously reported by public health officials at the Tulsa and Oklahoma City-County Health Departments.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages residents to take precautions to reduce the risk of contracting WNV, a mosquito-borne illness. WNV is spread through the bite of the Culex mosquito, which feeds on infected birds and transmits the virus when biting humans, horses and some other mammals. This type of mosquito increases in numbers during mid to late summer when the temperatures climb and the weather pattern is dry.
Summertime typically marks the beginning of the WNV season in Oklahoma, with outdoor activities providing opportunities for encountering infected mosquitoes. Although the severity of this year’s WNV season cannot be predicted, it is important to know the months with highest risk in Oklahoma occur from July through October. During 2015, there were 89 cases of WNV and 10 people died from the illness.
Symptoms of WNV vary widely depending on a person’s risk for more severe disease that involves the central nervous system. Some may experience sudden onset of fever, headache, dizziness, and muscle weakness and recover within one to three weeks while others develop life-threatening meningitis or encephalitis causing confusion, stupor, paralysis or a coma. Long-lasting complications of WNV disease can include difficulty concentrating, migraine headaches, extreme muscle weakness, tremors and paralysis of a limb. Those over the age of 50, diabetics, or those suffering from uncontrolled hypertension are at greater risk of developing severe neurologic disease from WNV. There is no vaccine or treatment drug for the illness, so taking steps to avoid mosquito bites is the only defense.
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