The Tulsa County Health Department says two people in Green Country have been diagnosed with West Nile virus.
A 65-year old man in Tulsa County and a man in Pittsburg County have the virus. The health department also says mosquitoes in the area have tested positive for the virus.
“The first WNV case in a Pittsburg County man and positive mosquito tests in Tulsa County are a reminder that WNV is here and precautions need to be taken to protect against the disease,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley.
Although the past three years have been relatively quiet for WNV in the state, Bradley said early indicators may signal a dramatic rise in Oklahoma cases in 2012. While only one case of WNV was reported in Oklahoma in 2011, 329 cases and 20 deaths have been reported in the state from the disease since 2002. Additionally, health authorities in Texas are reporting an increase in human cases and positive mosquito tests this year.
The Tulsa County Health Department operates 75 mosquito traps throughout the county. The nets are collected at the sites once a week and then tested for West Nile Virus. FOX23 accompanied that Health Department to a site on Monday. That site tested negative for West Nile but that wasn't the case at nine other sites. Fifty-five collection sites were tested this week and nine of the pools tested positive for the virus.
John Baker, maanager of the Environmental Department for the Tulsa Health Department, said that the nine sites were located in heavy residential areas. "The area they were concentrated in was north of downtown, over to Pine St. east of the Arkansas River and then diagonally down to 111th St. South and Memorial." Baker said in the round of tests, no rural sites tested positive for the virus.
“July typically marks the beginning of our high risk period for exposure to WNV in Oklahoma. It is also a time when Oklahomans are busy with yard work, participating in outdoor recreational activities, or just relaxing on the patio,” Bradley said. “All of these activities provide possible encounters with WNV-infected mosquitoes, so we want to remind everyone to use insect repellent when outdoors and mosquito-proof their home and yard.”
Baker said that risk of contracting the West Nile Virus is relatively low. "If you bitten one hundred times, only one of those mosquitoes might have West Nile. Even if you did get bitten by that one that carried the virus, only one if five develop symptoms," said Baker.
John said the main thing homeowners can do to control mosquito populations is to get rid of their breeding ground. He suggests clearing your yard of any empty containers, cover pools, regularly change the water inside bird baths and check gutters or tarps for standing water.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus include fever, headache, dizziness and muscle weakness. If you develop these symptoms and have suffered mosquito bites within the past two weeks health department officials say you should see a doctor.
Officials also urge everyone to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites by using repellent before going outside and making sure all screen windows and doors are secure.
For more information, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s WNV website at http://go.usa.gov/wpz