Beware of summer mosquitoes

Friday, May 23rd 2008, 7:18 pm
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, NEWS 9

With summer approaching and our rain totals increasing, again comes the threat of West Nile Virus.

More than 100 people in Oklahoma got the disease last year; eight of them died.

One surviving woman wants others to protect themselves.

Spring and summer are the best seasons of the year for Debbie Fiddler.

"I am an avid gardener and golfer and I'm outside a lot," Fiddler said.

But last summer, Fiddler's hobbies came to an abrupt halt after she started getting sick.

"I had flu-like symptoms," Fiddler said. "I have a low-grade fever, but I had major muscle aches, I had a rash that started a few days later," Fiddler said.

Fiddler was one of the 107 people who contracted West Nile Virus in the state last year. And for those who do survive, health experts say there can be life-long consequences.

"It can also cause serious encephalitis that has lasting consequences," Dr. Staci Myers with the Oklahoma City County Health Department said. "Even after they recover from the virus, people particularly those who have the neurologic form of the disease, have lasting disabilities."

West Nile first appeared in Oklahoma in 2002 and it's something we've been dealing with since. There's still no human vaccination for the disease so it's something we'll still be dealing with for years to come.

Ray Ridlen is an agriculture and horticulture expert with the Oklahoma State University Extension Office. He said driving down the mosquito population is a good start in protecting yourself.

"One of the main ways to control mosquitoes is to control their breeding sites around the house, and that can be bird baths, that can be ponds that can be child toys, the bucket out in the sand box, the wheel barrel that holds water," Ridlen said.

If you are outside, especially doing something like gardening, you should wear clothing to protect your skin and use a mosquito repellant containing DEET.

Precautions Debbie Fiddler is now taking.

"I think people need to step up and take care of themselves so they don't get this," Fiddler said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports the highest rates of West Nile in the Northwestern and North central regions of Oklahoma.