Funding To Fight Oklahoma Mosquito Population Cut

Wednesday, September 5th 2012, 4:44 pm

Oklahoma is in the middle of the worst West Nile season in state history, but News 9 has learned funding to fight the disease has been cut to the lowest levels ever. And those on the front line of the mosquito fight say that is hampering their efforts.

A federal grant that the state health department uses to monitor and fight the disease has been cut to the lowest levels ever, from $480,000 in 2004 now to an all-time low of $100,000 2012.

9/4/12 Related Story: West Nile Virus Cases In Oklahoma Break Record, Two More Deaths

"There was an outcry among some health departments," said state epidemiologist Kristy Bradley.

Bradley is in charge of the grant. She says without the money researchers weren't able to conduct mosquito surveillance this year and didn't have any advance warning that West Nile was here until a McAlister man was infected.

8/28/2012 Related Story: West Nile Virus Kills 5 In Oklahoma

"We had to learn through our human surveillance, which is certainly not idea," said Bradley.

And now that West Nile is here, Bradley says there is no way to know the communities and areas where the virus is at its worst and where to dedicate resources to fighting the mosquito population.

"It's more of a guessing game this year."

News 9's complete West Nile Virus coverage

Bradley says the lack of funding has hampered their ability to respond as quickly as they could have and fight the virus. The funding cut also means they had to stop or greatly reduce their local mosquito control programs.

"It was very unfortunate timing."

Oklahoma has 118 recorded cases of West Nile. Seven people have died.

Find out more information on preventing the West Nile Virus.