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First human West Nile Virus case, death of 2022 reported in central Oklahoma

Posted at 12:02 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 19:16:56-04

TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported the state's first human case and death from West Nile Virus on Thursday.

The health department says the person infected with the disease died after being hospitalized.

“We expect the number of human cases to increase as the temperatures rise throughout the summer,” said State Epidemiologist Jolianne Stone. “Typically, summertime is the beginning of the WNV season in Oklahoma, so with more people participating in outdoor activities there are increased opportunities for encountering infected mosquitoes.”

West Nile Virus spreads through bites from infected mosquitoes that the health department says likely fed on infected birds. These "Culex" mosquito populations are most present in the mid-to-late summer months.

In 2021, the state health department reported eight human cases and one death from the virus. The state's highest case and death numbers both came in 2012 when 161 people had non-fatal cases of West Nile Virus and 15 others died from it.

From the Oklahoma State Department of Health:

"While the vast majority of individuals with WNV will likely never experience symptoms following an infection, those with symptoms, are often mild and may include sudden fever, headache, dizziness or muscle weakness.

Recovery typically occurs 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. When the disease affects the nervous system, it can cause confusion or disorientation, loss of consciousness, paralysis, neck stiffness or coma.

Long lasting complications of WNV disease can include difficulty concentrating, migraines, headaches, extreme muscle weakness and tremors, and paralysis of a limb. There is no vaccine or treatment drug for this illness. The best defense is taking steps to avoid mosquito bites."

Health officials offered the following tips to protect against mosquitoes:

  • 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.

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