State Epidemiologist Kristy Bradley chatted with readers and answered questions about West Nile virus Wednesday. Read the entire chat recap here.
Topics discussed include: how to protect infants from mosquito bites and becoming infected, the number of West Nile cases reported in Oklahoma, development of a vaccine for the virus, when you might start to see symptoms and what age groups are at risk of becoming infected with the disease.
On Oklahoma West Nile cases:
Yesterday the State Health Department reported a total of 55 cases of West Nile disease confirmed so far this year and one related death. This is a much higher number than we've seen in previous years -- during 2008-11 combined, Oklahoma only had a total of 21 cases. We are on track for 2012 to be the most severe WNV season of record.
Because of the relatively high numbers of WNV cases that are being reported by hospitals, doctors and laboratories, we also have a number of case reports under investigation. The State Health Department will be updating our case statistics every Tuesday and Thursday on our website.
On developing a vaccine for the virus:
It has always been frustrating to me that we have had a very effective WNV vaccine to protect horses since 2003, but we don't have one to protect people! Two companies were in the process of developing a human WNV vaccine a few years ago, but since there have been no further progress on either of these vaccines, I fear that the companies determined it wasn't a profitable venture.