Tulsa County gearing up to fight the "West Nile virus"

Tuesday, May 4th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

This is the season for West Nile virus. The Oklahoma Department of Health says this year could be worse than last year.

In 2003, 79 Oklahomans were diagnosed with the disease, but luckily, no one died. There's already been one confirmed case in Ohio. News on 6 reporter Patrina Adger found out how you can protect yourself and your family.

Janice Sheehan with the Tulsa City County Health Department says nine people in Tulsa County were infected with West Nile virus last year. A map at the health department represents the number of birds infected in the county last year. "It's the Culex mosquito. You can't recognize them on site. All Culex mosquitoes don't carry West Nile, they're just the main one that does in our part of the country."

Bill Edwards of Tulsa became a West Nile virus victim back in November 2002. He was one of the Oklahoma’s first cases of West Nile virus. "My left leg had buckled on me. Went home that evening and Saturday I couldn't hardly get up." Bill was hospitalized for a month and lost 40 pounds. Symptoms of the disease are "flu-like" and range from fever to headaches and nausea.

Sheehan says "you" are the best defense against the disease and suggests remembering the 4 D's of Defense to protect yourself.

First, Dusk and Dawn. Avoid outdoor activities during these times of the day when mosquito activity is high. Next, Drain all items around your home that has standing water; don't give any places for mosquitoes to lay new eggs.

Use an insect repellent containing DEET to spray your clothing and exposed skin. Dress appropriately and wear long pants and long sleeves to cover your skin.

The city-county health department will also start spraying in Tulsa neighborhoods known to have large mosquito populations. Sheehan: "It's not something to be taken lightly. Just use common sense I think is going to help everyone."

The health department also suggests horse owners get their horses vaccinated!