OU Health Officials Send Out West Nile Virus Warning
OKLAHOMA CITY - OU health officials want you to be aware of symptoms of the West Nile virus.
The first cases of the virus have been confirmed in Okfuskee and McIntosh counties.
We had an opportunity to hear from 87-year-old Mary Lee Fennema, who goes by the nickname "Lucky." She contracted the West Nile virus back in 2012 and talked about some scary moments.
She has an amazing sense of humor, but doctors said it's a virus that shouldn't be taken lightly.
“I keep forgetting that I'm the age I am, and not 40,” said Mary Lee “Lucky” Fennema.
Fennema said as far as she knows she has no long term problems from the West Nile virus.
“You're immune. You should be protected,” said Dr. Robert Welliver.
“Okay, I'll bite that mosquito back,” said Fennema during the press conference.
She's able to laugh now, but Mary Lee suffered from encephalitis and had a seizure shortly after contracting West Nile.
Doctors said it's amazing she's as well as she is today, especially at 87.
“The case rate actually goes up in people above 50, and the more severe infection that you get, are seen in people that are 60, 70, 80, years old,” said Pediatric infectious disease specialist, Robert Welliver.
Mary Lee was on her way back from Springfield, Missouri with her family when she woke up during the ride not feeling well.
“On the way, I was waving my arms and shaking, and all of a sudden I had a spasm and fell back, and just stiff as a board,” said Fennema.
She said she doesn't remember much after that until she began physical therapy.
“I was just like a big bowl of jelly. I just almost slid out of his arms, because I had no strength at all,” said Fennema.
Summer typically marks the beginning of the West Nile season and fortunately, doctors said floodwaters caused by recent rain in the state does not increase the risk of the virus.
“If I'm immune, they can go ahead and nibble,” said Fennema.
West Nile can be deadly. In the past three years, 23 people across the state died from the virus.
But you can protect yourself.
Among the precautions to take against mosquito bites are the following:
Use an insect repellent containing DEET 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. Repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home. Prevent items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots, and tires from holding standing water so mosquitoes don't have a place to breed. Empty your pet's outdoor water bowl and refill daily. Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged. For more information, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health home page at www.ok.gov/health.