Warning Issued On Rise Of West Nile Virus In Oklahoma

Thursday, July 26th 2012, 6:30 pm
By: News 9

A statewide warning has been issued about the rise in cases of West Nile virus.

Most Oklahomans can agree that the state needs rain. But what the state doesn't need are the mosquitoes that come after it.

"They love high humidity right after a rainstorm," OSU Livestock Entomologist, Dr. Justin Talley said.

And recent weather forecasts indicate a perfect storm for mosquitoes. The drought has kept the pests away.

"Pick your poison, the drought has definitely affected mosquito population," Talley said.

But even on hot, dry days Talley says mosquitoes prefer city folks.

"West Nile Viruses that are showing up, they're around these cities," he said. "More mosquitos in urban populations, like Oklahoma City, Tulsa."

The reason for this is because of the behavior of the people who live in large cities.

"Because people are watering their yards, watering their gardens. Sometimes they'll have these nice sprinkler systems watering everything," Dr. Talley said.

7/26/2012 Related Story: More Cases OF West Nile Confirmed In Oklahoma

But even with the current rise, Oklahoma is still nowhere near the West Nile cases of 2007, when 107 Oklahomans got sick from West Nile-infected mosquito bites. Twenty Oklahomans have died from West Nile virus in the last decade.

Talley says mosquito populations are not strong right now, but people should be prepared.

"What we do see from the hot temperatures this summer and last summer is our modified behavior. We're out more when mosquitos are out more."

Talley says mosquitoes like the morning time and when it cools down at night, when many Oklahomans use the cooler time of day to garden or relax outdoors. Also, a popular garden pool is a hot bed for mosquitoes to nest.

"They'll lay their eggs in water," Dr. Talley said. "Reduce the water if you can, get rid of any clutter."

Spare tires, old junk, watering cans, even un-kept gutters are spots mosquitoes will use to multiply.

"If it's a water garden, you can put stuff in them that just targets mosquitoes, [it is] safe for fish. Common name ‘mosquito dunks'." Talley said.

There's also repellent you can wear on your body so mosquitoes don't want to bite you. The state health department says use plenty of repellent with DEET in it to keep mosquitoes at bay.

For horse owners, Talley says now's the time for vaccinations. Horses can get very sick from West Nile.