Oklahoma resident dies after contracting West Nile virus

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An Oklahoman has died after contracting the West Nile virus. It is the state's first West Nile-related death in 2022.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said the person was a central Oklahoma resident and had been hospitalized before dying.

The virus is spread by mosquitoes, which feed on infected birds and then spread the virus to humans, horses and other mammals.

In Oklahoma, Culex mosquitoes increase in abundance during mid- to late summer when temperatures are high, and the weather pattern is dry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the United States. It is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the United States. It is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall.

“We expect the number of human cases to increase as the temperatures rise throughout the summer,” state Epidemiologist Jolianne Stone said. “Typically, summertime is the beginning of the WNV season in Oklahoma, so with more people participating in outdoor activities there are increased opportunities for encountering infected mosquitoes.”

Oklahoma has seen relatively few deaths from West Nile virus in recent years. One person contracted the virus and died in 2021. Two people died from the virus in 2020.

How to fight mosquitoes in Oklahoma

In announcing the West Nile-related death on Thursday,  Health Department officials offered precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535 on exposed skin and clothing when going outdoors, particularly between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more likely to bite. Insect repellent with permethrin should be used on clothing only.

  • Repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of the home.

  • Prevent items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flowerpots, children’s toys and tires from holding water to prevent providing mosquitoes a place to breed.

  • Empty pets' outdoor water bowls and refill daily.

  • Scrub and refill bird baths every three days.

  • Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged.

What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?

Symptoms of West Nile virus are often mild and may include sudden fever, headache, dizziness or muscle weakness.

Recovery typically occurs within one to three weeks.

The majority of individuals with the virus likely will never experience symptoms.

People older than 50, diabetics and those with hypertension are at a greater risk of developing severe neurologic disease from a West Nile infection.

For more information on West Nile Virus, go to the Health Department website.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Central Oklahoma resident dies after contracting West Nile virus