Health officials are urging residents to take precautions against mosquitoes after some of the disease-carrying insects in Tulsa County tested positive for the West Nile virus.
The mosquitoes were caught this week in a trap in east Tulsa along the U.S. 169 corridor between 31st and 41st streets, according to the Tulsa Health Department’s mosquito surveillance program.
The discovery is the first this year, but there have been positive WNV tests in mosquitoes in previous years as well as some human cases in Tulsa County, according to Mandy Dixon, the Tulsa Health Department’s vector control coordinator.
“Unfortunately, some of those people have died of the illness,” Dixon said in a news release. “It is important to take steps to prevent mosquitoes from biting you and your family.”
No human cases have been detected in Oklahoma so far this year.
Prevention is “easy” with the following steps, Dixon said:
Dump or drain standing water from items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots and tires so mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed.
Use an insect repellent containing DEET or other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-approved repellents on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors, particularly if you are outside between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are more likely to bite. Insect repellent with permethrin should be used on clothing only.
Wear long sleeves and long pants that are loose-fitting and made of light colors.
Repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
Encourage your friends and neighbors to dump and drain standing water and to use repellents.
Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure that they aren’t clogged.
West Nile virus is spread through mosquitoes that feed on infected birds. The infected mosquitoes then transmit the virus when biting humans, horses and some other mammals.
Symptoms of West Nile virus include sudden onset of fever, headache, dizziness and muscle weakness.
Most people infected with the virus don’t feel sick, according to the CDC. About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop fever and other symptoms, and about 1 out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.
There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat West Nile virus in people.
Although the months of July through October are typically the highest-risk months for exposure to WNV in Oklahoma, the Tulsa Health Department begins its mosquito surveillance program proactively each May to better detect when mosquito-borne illnesses might present in the community.
Mosquito traps are set in various locations throughout Tulsa County, and samples are collected and tested weekly. This season, nearly 15,000 mosquitos caught in 225 traps have been tested, according to THD data.
When necessary, the department deploys control methods such as targeting larvae with insecticides, but Dixon said it is critical that community members “do their part” to practice prevention methods.
“Our mosquito control program recognizes the importance of preventing mosquito-borne illness by educating the public on bite prevention and identifying and dumping any standing water,” Dixon said in the press release. “THD is prepared to act in the affected areas as soon as weather conditions allow.”
To place a complaint about mosquitoes in an area or report standing or stagnant water, call 918-582-9355 or submit an online environmental complaint form on the Tulsa Health Department website at tulsa-health.org. Making a report does not guarantee immediate action but provides the vector control team data to determine locations for traps, according to the release.
Trapping and testing will continue until the number of mosquitoes subsides in the fall.
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