OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is reporting the first human case and death in 2022 caused by the West Nile Virus (WNV) in a Central Oklahoma resident.

According to a press release from OSDH, the patient was hospitalized before passing away. WNV spreads through the bite of an infected mosquito. 

In Oklahoma, WNV is primarily spread by the Culex mosquito, which feeds on infected birds and then spreads the virus when biting humans, horses and some other mammals. This type of mosquito increases in abundance during mid-to-late summer when temperatures are high and the weather pattern is dry.

“We expect the number of human cases to increase as the temperatures rise throughout the summer,” said Jolianne Stone, the State Epidemiologist. “Typically, summertime is the beginning of the WNV season in Oklahoma, so with more people participating in outdoor activities there are increased opportunities for encountering infected mosquitoes.”

OSDH officials are reminding the public to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Tips to avoid mosquito bites and prevent WNV:

  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin and clothing when going outdoors, particularly 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 the home.
  • Prevent items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots, children’s toys and tires from holding water to prevent providing mosquitoes a place to breed.
  • Empty pet’s outdoor water bowl and refill daily.
  • Scrub and refill bird baths every three days.
  • Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged.

While the vast majority of individuals with WNV will likely never experience symptoms following an infection, those with symptoms, are often mild and may include sudden fever, headache, dizziness or muscle weakness. Recovery typically occurs within one to three weeks.

People older than 50 years, diabetics, or those experiencing uncontrolled hypertension are at a greater risk of developing severe neurologic disease from WNV infection. When the disease affects the nervous system, it can cause confusion or disorientation, loss of consciousness, paralysis, neck stiffness or coma.

Long-lasting complications from WNV disease can include difficulty concentrating, migraines, headaches, extreme muscle weakness and tremors and paralysis of a limb. There is no vaccine or treatment drug for this illness. The best defense is taking steps to avoid mosquito bites.

For more information including historical reported cases, visit the OSDH website at OSDH West Nile Virus and view the OSDH WNV Fact Sheet.