Tulsa health department’s mosquito surveillance program detects mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus

Tulsa health department’s mosquito surveillance program detects mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus
File photo of a mosquito. (� 2018 Cox Media Group.)

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Health Department (THD) officials confirmed that a sample of mosquitoes from a trap in Tulsa County has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV). It is important for residents to remember to take precautions against WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses. At this time, there have been no confirmed cases of WNV in humans in Tulsa County this year.

According to the American Mosquito Control Association and the World Health Organization, there is no information nor evidence to suggest mosquitoes could transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Mosquitoes can transmit diseases like West Nile virus, so we strongly encourage the use of insect repellent containing DEET to protect yourself.

THD operates a nationally-recognized mosquito surveillance program in order to confirm when mosquito-borne illnesses is present in the community. Mosquito traps are set weekly in various locations throughout Tulsa County. Samples are collected and tested weekly for the presence of mosquito-borne illnesses. The Tulsa Health Department operates on an efficient budget to control mosquito populations during the spring and summer by surveillance and treats instead of spray.The objective of the surveillance is to detect the presence of mosquitoes, determine abundance, species, make a risk assessment, and provide a basis for control. Control methods include larviciding and spraying when necessary. Public health is the primary driver for preventing disease infection in Tulsa County.

Content Continues Below

The months of July through October are typically the highest risk months for exposure to WNV in Oklahoma, however THD proactively begins a mosquito surveillance program each May.

“We begin our surveillance program in early May with the goal is to catch potential West Nile positive mosquitoes as early as possible,” said Scott Meador, vector control program coordinator. “Our mosquito surveillance program recently implemented new testing guidelines and has adjusted the initiation date of surveillance and testing. THD is prepared to take action in the affected areas as soon as weather conditions allow which includes informing the public so they can protect themselves. Finding a positive test this early is no indicator of how prevalent West Nile virus will be this season.”West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected 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.

“There have been human cases of West Nile virus disease in Tulsa County every year since 2003, unfortunately, some of those people have died of the illness,” said Meador. “It is important to take steps to prevent mosquitos from biting you and your family. Prevention is easy with these steps.” Precautions to take against mosquito bites are the following:

• Dump and drain items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots, and tires from holding standing water so mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed.

• Use an insect repellent containing DEET or other CDC approved repellents on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors, particularly if you are outside 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 your home.

• Encourage your friends and neighbors to dump and drain and to use repellents.

• Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged.