OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Department of Health warned people take precautions to avoid mosquito bites after an Oklahoma County woman died from West Nile Virus.

The State Medical Examiner's Office says 81-year-old Donna Smith died July 28 from the virus.  

There were 24 new cases of the virus confirmed in the state over the last week. Most victims of the disease believe they were exposed to mosquitoes and WNV outside their homes – while gardening, doing yard work or just relaxing on the patio. Healthy, active adults aged 50 and older are the greatest risk group, according to a public health warning issued Tuesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

"Prevention is the key to protection," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline.

"One bite from an infected mosquito can lead to a severe and possibly life-altering illness. We urge everyone to use insect repellent when outdoors and to mosquito-proof their home as best possible."

So far in 2012, 55 cases of West Nile Virus have been confirmed in 14 Oklahoma Counties. Tulsa County ranks number one with 14 cases. Oklahoma County has 12 confirmed cases, Carter County 9, Pittsburg 7, Muskogee 3 and Garfield, 2. Patient ages range from 12 to 90 years.

Symptoms of West Nile can range from none at all to serious. Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Skin Rash
  • Stiff neck
  • Mental confusion or disorientation
  • Numbness
  • Convulsions
  • Coma

Seek medical attention if any of these symptoms develop, especially within two weeks after mosquito bites.

"Fight the bite" by taking the following precautions:

  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing
  • Repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home
  • Don't leave standing water in items like buckets, cans, flower pots etc. where mosquitoes breed
  • Empty, clean and refill bird baths and animal watering bowls daily
  • Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged

For more information on West Nile Virus, go to the Oklahoma Health Department web site.