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Oklahoma medical news briefs, Feb. 19

Published: February 19, 2012


Drought kills West Nile

The West Nile virus no longer poses a serious health threat in Oklahoma, the state Health Department reports. The disease, spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, caused 329 cases and 20 deaths in the state from 2002 to 2011. The worst year for the disease in Oklahoma was 2007, with 107 reported cases and eight deaths. Also, many birds and animals were infected and died from the virus. However, only one human virus case was reported in 2011, and it wasn't fatal. In all, there hasn't been a West Nile virus death in Oklahoma since 2009, a Health Department official said. Drought conditions in Oklahoma the past two years have had an impact because a lack of moisture reduced the state's mosquito population, health officials said.

Chewing tobacco harms heart

A recent national study conducted by cardiologists shows evidence that chewing tobacco harms the heart, an official with the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust said. “Smokeless tobacco remains a threat to the health and wellness of Oklahomans,” said Tracey Strader, executive director. “It's not a safe alternative to cigarettes and, in fact, is even more habit forming because it contains a higher concentration of nicotine than cigarettes.” The study, published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, found that coronary arteries constricted within 10 minutes of using chewing tobacco. The same study indicated that chewing tobacco can damage genetic material in the liver, kidney and lungs. Strader said the upcoming week will be “Through With Chew Week,” which encourages schools and workplaces to implement no-tobacco-use policies.

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