Seasonal Changes, Heat, Drought Bring More Health Risks

Oklahomans Need to Heed Extra Precautions

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Seasonal Changes, Heat, Drought Bring More Health Risks

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Drought caused stagnation has allowed algae to grow excessively on this farm pond in Blanchard, Okla., …

It's not as if the extreme heat and dryness haven't already caused enough problems for much of Oklahoma; now the increased threat of West Nile Virus and an oft-deadly infection caused by an amoeba that thrives in warm waters are issues to be considered.

West Nile Virus Prevalence

Oklahoma isn't alone in grappling with this issue; its neighbor to the south, Texas, currently has the highest number of West Nile Virus cases for the season. A map provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with information current through Aug. 14, shows that many states throughout the country are reporting cases of this illness acquired via mosquito bites. The central area of Oklahoma has reported the most cases statewide.

West Nile Virus Season in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health, OSDH, explains that West Nile Virus season extends from May through November, with the greatest risk to humans between July and the end of October.

Preventing Exposure to West Nile Virus

To avoid exposure to this illness, residents, regardless of age, should take precautions to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.

Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Avoid being outdoors during the hours of dawn and dusk, when mosquito activity is at its greatest. The OSDH advises the use of insect repellant when working or playing outdoors, especially during the hours of greatest mosquito activity.

Reduce Mosquito Population/Reduce Risk of West Nile Virus

Neighboring Texas has begun a spraying program to reduce mosquito numbers there, but as of yet neither state nor county officials have indicated there will be spraying in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City-County Health Department is advising residents to look around their properties and eliminate any sources of standing or stagnant water.

Items such as old tires, buckets, flower pots and bird baths are likely sources of stagnant water -- just the sort of places mosquitoes and their larvae thrive.

The health department is also recommending the use of microbial larvicides in areas of standing water that cannot be drained, such as ponds. These products prevent the mosquito larvae from reaching the adult stage and are non-toxic to humans and wildlife.

Dangers from Naegleria Fowleri Amoeba

According to a report from the Associated Press, the heat and drought of this Oklahoma summer is making the waters of the state prime territory for the growth of a particularly dangerous organism: Naegleria fowleri amoeba.

This amoeba thrives in warm water temperatures. When someone is in contact with outdoor water such as the rivers, lakes and ponds of Oklahoma, if water goes into the nose, there is the potential that the amoeba could be present. If so, the nose and nasal cavities provide direct access to the brain. Should the amoeba reach the brain, an infection with a 99 percent mortality rate, called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, PAM, may ensure, explains the OSHD.

Reduce Chances of Exposure to Infection-Causing Amoeba

The absolute best way to avoid infection from this particular organism is to avoid the warm summer waters. OSHD advises that anyone playing or swimming in Oklahoma's fresh waters avoid getting the water into mouth or nose. Use nose plugs and eye and ear plugs if prone to infections. Do not swim in or enter stagnant or polluted water.

Properly chlorinated pools will be free of this amoeba.

Bottom Line

Using the appropriate safety precautions will go a long way to keeping you and your family safe from these health dangers of this Oklahoma summer.

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