An Oklahoma County woman is the first person in the state to die from West Nile this year, the state Health Department reported Thursday.
The state Health Department has confirmed four cases of West Nile virus this year in Oklahoma, all in Oklahoma County.
The woman who died was between 70 and 79. The other three people who had confirmed cases of West Nile virus were a female between the ages of 10 and 19, and two other people younger than 50.
Research has shown that people older than 50 are usually at the greatest risk for developing serious complications because of West Nile. About 80 percent of people who contract the virus generally don't show symptoms.
Public health officials continue to warn residents to take precautions against West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne illness that's contracted when a mosquito carrying the virus bites a person.
People with West Nile virus typically experience symptoms of fever, headache, nausea, muscle weakness and body aches lasting two to six days or longer. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for West Nile virus, and medical professionals generally can only treat the symptoms the virus causes. In more serious cases, West Nile can cause paralysis or brain swelling.
Phil Maytubby, chief of public health protection at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, said the health department staff has received several calls from residents reporting areas that could potentially serve as mosquito breeding grounds.
Health department inspectors have been throughout the county to place larvicide in those areas.
Larvicide targets larvae in the breeding habitat before they can mature into adult mosquitoes and disperse, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Larvicide treatment of breeding habitats helps reduce the adult mosquito population in nearby areas.
The health department has also supplied larvicide for cities within Oklahoma County to use.
“This is the most active we've ever had for larviciding in the county,” he said.
At this time last year, Oklahoma County had seen 40 cases of West Nile virus among its residents.
Last year, the state saw a record number of cases and deaths because of West Nile virus. A total of 176 people in Oklahoma were confirmed to have contracted the virus, including 15 who died.
“It's not good that that happens, period, but luckily we're not at the levels we were at last year,” Maytubby said.
At a glance
West Nile virus
• People with West Nile virus typically experience symptoms of fever, headache, nausea, muscle weakness and body aches lasting two to six days.
• There is no vaccine or specific treatment for West Nile virus.
• In more serious cases, West Nile can cause paralysis or brain swelling.