Number Of People Dying From West Nile Virus Reaches 6

Tuesday, October 9th 2007, 6:09 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A sixth Oklahoman has died from the West Nile virus and a record number of residents have been infected with the mosquito-borne illness this season, officials with the Oklahoma state Department of Health said. An 81-year-old Payne County man is the latest person to die of the virus this year, an official said Monday. The man, whose name wasn't released, died Sept. 28.

This year's death toll equals the one-year state record of deaths from the West Nile virus that was set last year.

In addition, 81 cases of infection have been reported this year, surpassing 2003, when the state had 79 cases of West Nile virus.

Eighteen Oklahomans have died from the virus since 2002, when the state first began monitoring cases on an annual basis.

``One of the lessons that we have learned from this year's experience with the West Nile virus is that it is extremely challenging to predict from one year to the next how bad of a season it will be in Oklahoma,'' state epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said.

``This has been a record year, and we will continue to have Oklahomans become seriously ill and die from this virus,'' Bradley said. ``The West Nile virus threat is still high in Oklahoma.''

The West Nile virus season runs from July to November.

All the victims this year have been men ranging in age from 60 to 87.

The disease can cause inflammation of the brain, which is the most serious and deadliest complication from the virus.

Symptoms vary among individuals but may include a high fever, intense headaches, extreme tiredness, muscle weakness and dizziness, health officials said.

The state Health Department is encouraging ``people, especially those more than 50 years old, to regularly use mosquito repellent when outdoors,'' Bradley said.