Woodward, Okla. —
It's not just an advisory anymore.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has issued a health warning on the West Nile Virus.
The health department reports there has been at least 1 death from the mosquito-borne illness this year, and 24 new cases have appeared in the last week. The total is now 55.
There are now 2 cases in Garfield County, the closest to the Woodward area. Tulsa County has reported 14 cases and Oklahoma County 12. Carter County in southern Oklahoma has 9 cases and Pittsburg County has 7.
and Pittsburg County in the southeast part of the state has 7.
The death reported was from Oklahoma County, an adult over age 75.
The worst West Nile Virus breakout in Oklahoma came in 2007 when 107 cases were confirmed and 8 people died.
There is no vaccine to prevent the virus in humans and no drugs to treat it.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK
Officials said healthy, active adults 50 and over have the highest risk of developing the most serious form of the West Nile Virus, which causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Most of the cases in Oklahoma have developed in persons over 40.
The health department noted that while those who work in farming or construction are at high risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Experts said it takes only one bite from an infected mosquito to develop the virus.
Terri Salisbury, Administrative Director of the Woodward County Health Department, strongly urged the application of a repellent containing DEET if one plans to be outdoors for any period.
"The amount of time doesn't matter," she said. "Just the fact that they are outside can lead to that one infectious bite. That's all it takes."
HOW DID THE OUTBREAK START?
Salisbury said there are a couple of schools of thought among health officials about why the the West Nile Virus breakout is so serious this year.
"One is that the hot, dry conditions help multiply the virus," she said. "The other is the life cycles of birds."
She explained that baby birds who are already infected with the virus are bitten by mosquitos, which then become virus carriers themselves.
As to the effect on people.
"There may be no symptoms at all, to a mild WNV fever, all the way to a serious neurological disease condition," Salisbury said.
Affected persons may experience a sudden fever onset, with headaches, nausea and dizziness.
"They may have muscle weakness, as well," Salisbury said. "They might also have swollen lymph glands and a rash."
If the infection progresses to the serious level, she said afflicted persons may have a high fever, a stiff neck, confusion/disorientation, numbness, convulsions and go into a coma.
"A paralysis of a limb may also happen," she said. "These effects could be permanent or fatal."
Salisbury said if any of the conditions start to appear within 2 weeks of being bitten, prompt medical attention should be sought.