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West Nile virus season is over, Oklahoma Health Department official says

This past year, Oklahoma saw more cases of West Nile virus than in any year since the virus first entered the U.S. in 1999. In total, there have been 177 reported cases of the virus, with 12 confirmed deaths.
BY JACLYN COSGROVE Published: November 30, 2012

The worst West Nile virus season that Oklahoma has ever seen is over, a state Health Department official said Thursday.

Over the past few weeks, there haven't been any new cases reported of the mosquito-borne virus reported in people or horses, a good sign that mosquitoes are dormant for now, said Kristy Bradley, the state epidemiologist at the state Health Department.

This year, Oklahoma saw 177 reported cases of West Nile virus and 12 confirmed deaths related to virus. The state's previous record was 107 cases in 2007.

Bradley said the state might see a few more reported cases or deaths, but those would be from open cases that occurred during West Nile virus season that the state Health Department is still investigating.

The lesson that public officials can learn from this year's West Nile virus season is one about the allocation of resources, Bradley said.

Before this year, the state Health Department had a federal grant to pay for mosquito surveillance. This allowed workers to travel Oklahoma, collect mosquitoes and report back whether any mosquitoes were carrying West Nile virus.

But because of federal funding cuts, the state Health Department could no longer finance the surveillance lab, which meant the agency was limited on its knowledge of the presence of West Nile virus.

Until a McAlester man was first to contract West Nile virus in June, the state Health Department did not know that mosquitoes in Oklahoma were carrying the virus.

Bradley said these types of funding cuts are the typical cycle of disease outbreaks. There's a heightened public awareness about a disease, and more money is set aside to combat it. But once the number of reported cases decreases, state and federal funding declines.

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