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Officials fear resurgence of West Nile virus

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Recent heavy rain across the state followed by hot weather have prompted concerns among state health officials that standing water could serve as breeding pools for mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus.

Interim State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said Tuesday that while there has been only one report of a person contracting the disease in Oklahoma this year, precautions must be taken to ensure there isn't a resurgence of the virus, which has killed five people in the state since 2002.

She urged people to dump standing water that may have collected in gutters, buckets, play equipment and elsewhere.

``We need to fight the bite,'' she said. ``The best way an individual can lessen the risk is by limiting exposure to biting mosquitoes, regularly apply repellent containing Deet, particularly if your going to be outdoors in the evening and early morning hours, and also to cover up as much exposed skin as possible.''

There were 22 cases of West Nile fever reported last year during a mosquito season that runs from June through November. This year's only case was in Sequoyah County, and this person had traveled to Louisiana and may have contracted the disease there, Bradley said.

As part of the state Health Department's efforts to monitor the disease, volunteers have been collecting mosquitoes in Pittsburg, Payne, Coal and Tulsa counties to gain information about infection rates in mosquitoes and to see which species of the insect is carrying the disease.

Some of those bitten by infected mosquitoes may not develop any symptoms, while others may get a mild form of the disease marked by a fever. In the most serious cases, the disease can attack the central nervous system and result in paralysis or death.
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