West Nile Virus Claims First Life Of 2013 In Oklahoma County

Thursday, September 5th 2013, 6:02 pm
By: Craig Day

A woman in her 70s from Oklahoma County is the first Oklahoman to die from West Nile this year.

Parts of the state are in the peak season for the mosquito borne illness, and the hot dry weather isn't helping.

Health leaders and a Tulsan who lost a loved one to West Nile want people to take prevention seriously.

It's been a little more than a year since ORU assistant men's basketball coach Conley Phipps' dad died. He got West Nile Virus in June of last year and passed away two months later.

"They told us that, that was what it was and I was shocked. Then, when he passed away, I was more shocked that a big strong guy like that could die from a mosquito bite. It's scary," Phipps said.

Conley Phipps, Sr. was one of 161 human cases of West Nile in 2012. Fifteen people died from the virus last year.

9/5/2013 Related Story: Oklahoma County Woman Dies From West Nile Virus

So far this year, four Oklahomans have tested positive for West Nile, all in Oklahoma County, with one death.

Tulsa Health Department's Bernard Dindy said the lower number of human infections, and none reported in Tulsa County, may be because more people are taking the threat seriously and are taking precautions.

"Maybe people are not complacent, maybe people are more aware this year, because of what has happened in past years," Dindy said.

The Tulsa Health Department sprays with at least two trucks, most nights. Seventy-five traps are spread out across the county, with mosquitos collected Mondays and Tuesdays, and tested on Fridays.

More than 800 mosquitos were tested last year, with 30 testing positive.

"So far this year, we've got 25, but we're testing, so we'll see if that number is going to increase," Dindy said.

This year, areas in Tulsa County where mosquitos have tested positive for West Nile three times are near 21st and Mingo and near East Apache and North Cincinnati Avenue.

Conley Phipps said, until the first cold snap wipes out the mosquito population, everyone should be cautious.

"My kids, I kind of watch them close. They come in with a big ol' mosquito bite, it scares me to death, because it only takes one," Phipps said.

Tests show the areas in north, south and west Tulsa County have had the fewest number of mosquitoes with West Nile this year.