West Nile virus cases continue to rise in Oklahoma, with 123 confirmed cases reported as of Thursday.
This is the highest number of West Nile virus cases the state has ever seen, according to state Health Department data.
“Our surveillance findings clearly show that Oklahoma adults over the age of 40 are at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill after an encounter with a mosquito carrying West Nile virus,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said in a statement. “We continue to urge people in this age group to heed the warning and regularly practice their personal protection methods. Something as simple as using mosquito repellent can spare you from a life changing disease.”
This year, a confirmed seven residents have died because of illness related to West Nile virus.
West Nile virus is cyclical, known to rise every three to four years. In 2007, Oklahoma saw its first West Nile virus record with 107 reported cases and nine confirmed deaths.
Carter County, Grant County and Pittsburg County have seen the highest number of cases per capita. Meanwhile, Oklahoma County has seen 40 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus and two deaths.
A person contracts West Nile virus after being bitten by an infected mosquito. More than 80 percent of people exposed to the virus never become ill. Of the people who do get sick, most people develop West Nile fever, with symptoms like headache, fever and fatigue.
Especially in people older than 50, West Nile virus can develop into severe neurological disease, causing the brain to swell or a person to become paralyzed. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for West Nile virus.
In areas where West Nile virus is present in the mosquitoes, only about 1 percent generally are infected with the virus, according to the state Health Department.
Public health officials have cautioned residents spending time outdoors to apply a mosquito repellent containing DEET or another approved active ingredient such as Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.
Removing stagnant water from areas outside your home is always important, for this can pose as a mosquito breeding group.
West Nile virus was not known to be present in the U.S. until 1999, according to the state Health Department.
Did you know?
Report mosquito problems
Residents of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County can report sources of stagnant water outside their own property.
To file a complaint about mosquito habitat, visit the complaints section of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department website or call the health department's consumer protection division at 425-4347, 425-4348 or 425-4319.