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Deaths From West Nile Virus Set US, Oklahoma Record In 2012

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NEW YORK -

U.S. health officials say last year was the worst ever for West Nile virus deaths in the U.S. and Oklahoma.

The final tally reported Monday was 286 deaths, two more than the previous record set in 2002.

In Oklahoma, there were 15 deaths reported in 2012 and another 126 Oklahomans had to be hospitalized. The previous record in Oklahoma was 9 deaths in 2007. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had predicted it would be a bad year because of weather conditions that promoted breeding of the mosquitoes that spread the virus to people.

West Nile virus was first diagnosed in Uganda in 1937, but no cases were reported in the U.S. until 1999 in New York. It gradually spread to the west coast.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says of the 15 deaths last year, five occurred in Tulsa County. The counties with highest number of hospitalizations were Oklahoma [39], Tulsa [26], Carter [13], Pittsburg [7] and Muskogee [3].

The OSDH says in Oklahoma, the West Nile Virus season runs from May to November. People are at greatest risk of exposure to infected mosquitoes from July through October.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the Oklahoma Department of Health's web site.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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