As Oklahoma moves closer to summer, public health officials are hoping to protect residents against everyone’s least favorite insect.
Oklahoma has not seen any confirmed cases of West Nile virus, but that doesn’t mean residents shouldn’t be diligent in the efforts they take against mosquitoes, said Kristy Bradley, epidemiologist at the state Health Department.
“No matter if it’s a light season or a heavy season for West Nile virus, there is going to be some level of West Nile virus circulating in mosquitoes in Oklahoma every single summer and early fall,” Bradley said. “Now is the time for people to be aware of that and start using their mosquito repellent regularly when they’re going to be outdoors, even if it’s for a relatively short period of time.”
West Nile virus is a virus that is spread by mosquitoes that might cause illness in birds, animals and humans, according to the state Health Department. Last year, Oklahoma saw 82 confirmed cases of West Nile virus with seven residents dying after contracting the virus.
Thus far this year, only Mississippi has confirmed human cases of West Nile.
Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin have reported West Nile activity in either mosquitoes or other animals.
West Nile virus activity in Oklahoma usually starts in June or early July and continues throughout the warmer months.
Waite Colbaugh, a public health specialist at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, said as far as the mosquito population goes, heavy rains in Oklahoma County have been a mixed blessing.