West Nile Virus Reminder

Thursday, September 14th 2006, 10:35 am
By: News On 6

The state's latest death from the West Nile virus has health workers reminding us all that mosquito season isn't over yet. A 68-year-old Tulsa man is the fifth person to die from West Nile. The man lived in south Tulsa.

News on 6 anchor Craig Day looks at Tulsa County's effort to get rid of mosquitoes and how you can protect yourself.

Tulsa County has four mosquito trucks that criss-cross the county each night and early morning. Crews have 500 square miles to cover. The spraying is critical to stem the risk of West Nile, which in people can attack the nervous system. Janice Sheehan with the Tulsa City-County Health Department: "the mosquitoes are still here, it hasn't gotten cold enough yet for them to go away."

The mosquito season runs through October in Oklahoma, so there is still a chance of exposure. In addition to the West Nile fatality in Tulsa County, there have been two deaths in Oklahoma County this year and one each in Carter and Grady Counties. All five of this year's victims ranged in age from 62 to 78.

Older adults and children are the most susceptible to West Nile. Health workers say it's extremely important to limit exposure to mosquitoes and to call for spraying. The more calls, the better the chance crews will target a particular neighborhood. John Baker with the Tulsa City-County Health Department: "our spray system is designed to take the highest number of complaints in any square mile and basically work our way down the list."

Until spray trucks arrive, people are urged to use spray with DEET, limit time outside around dawn and dusk, and get rid of anything that could hold stagnant water, which is prime breeding ground for mosquitoes. Janice Sheehan: "the thing that we need to know about West Nile Virus is that it is in our community and it's going to be here to stay so we need to do the things we know to do to protect ourselves."

So far this year, there have been 24 cases statewide of people who have contracted West Nile. Those have been in 14 counties, including Tulsa, Ottawa, Wagoner, Muskogee, and Pittsburgh counties in eastern Oklahoma.