Health Experts Say "Stay Aware" For West Nile - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Health Experts Say "Stay Aware" For West Nile

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ARDMORE, OK -- The Oklahoma State Health Department says Carter County held one of the highest rates of confirmed West Nile virus cases in 2012.    

Health experts are urging Texomans to be aware to help prevent a West Nile outbreak.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says there were 161 confirmed cases and 15 deaths due to West Nile virus in 2012.

Amanda Riley remembers a close friend who contracted the virus that year.

"It was bad," said Riley. "And he got it, he was in the hospital and he passed away. It just makes you aware that it can happen to anybody."

OSHD reported the number of cases and deaths dropped by more than half the next year.

At the end of May of this year, zero West Nile cases have been counted, but health specialists are urging Texomans to remain aware.

"70 to 80 percent of people who become infected with the virus never show symptoms," said Zach Collins, a public health specialist at the Carter County Health Department.

Collins says the virus, which has no vaccine for humans, is more likely to peak in drought conditions. Making  stagnant water a breeding ground.

"A creek that doesn't drain properly, or even old dog water bowls outside," said Collins, speaking about potential breeding sites. "It's important to make sure that you're draining those often."

Several Ardmoreites say a can of DEET insect repellant isn't far away before venturing outside.

"It keeps them from getting anything not just West Nile but I know they have all sorts of gross parasites and everything," said Whitney Hatley, who uses the repellant on her two young children.

"We always carry it," said Eurgin Pirtle. "And make sure my granddaughter carries it because she's always outside."

Riley, who lives near Lake Texoma, says her immediate and extended family never plan to run the risk.

"Not taking any chances," said Riley. "I have a 6-year old nephew that lives next door and he gets sprayed down too as soon as we go outside."

Specialists say to avoid the outdoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitos are most active.
     
But if you do have to be outside, they recommend clothes that cover as much skin as possible.