A couple of years ago one of our friends here in Tulsa contracted West Nile. It was surprising how long it took this active healthy guy to get over it. He was really sick for weeks! It’s important to be informed and take precautions. We all hate chemicals but this is a case where the ounce of prevention can really be a lifesaver. We ran across this NewsOK article related to current mosquito threats in Oklahoma for 2017 and also added some resources to learn more about how Oklahoma deals with mosquito infestations:
A largely unknown mosquito virus, which can temporarily debilitate those affected, could be making its way to Oklahoma, along with other diseases during this year’s mosquito season.
The first reported case of chikungunya in Oklahoma occurred in 2014, when Katie Cariker, of Jenks, took a trip to Haiti and returned with the infection. She never fully recovered.
“It was pretty brutal,” Cariker said. “I was in so much pain and ill for a long time.”
With Oklahoma already seeing reports of West Nile virus early in the mosquito season, health officials wonder what the rest of the season could bring.
When Cariker returned from her mission trip, she immediately went to Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, thinking that she could get treated.
“The doctors there did not know what chikungunya was,” Cariker said.
The only treatment for the infection is acetaminophen or ibuprofen and there has been no advances in a vaccine.
“I was lucky enough to have access to those drugs,” she said. “I had tried to stick it out.”
Symptoms still occur for Cariker, who gets pains throughout her body and weakness, with no warning signs.
“It looks and feels like rheumatoid arthritis,” said immunologist Dr. Hal Scofield with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. “It gives you this severe aching in your joints.”
The disease infects the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which cannot survive over the winter in Oklahoma, Scofield said. But he warned that it could make its way from Florida.
One case already has been reported in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Scofield and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that if chikungunya spreads to the Asian tiger mosquito, it could become a major problem in Oklahoma and surrounding states.
“There is always a possibility that importation and local transmission of chikungunya virus will occur in the continental United States,” said Marc Fischer, medical officer with CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.
The Asian tiger mosquito, which can carry Zika and other diseases, is able to live through the winter in Oklahoma. The mosquito has been found in almost every county in the state.
The risk of a large-scale chikungunya outbreak remains low, Fischer said. But scientists say it would just take one accidental event.
“We are one serendipitous event away from an outbreak,” said Bruce Noden, assistant professor of medical and veterinary entomology at Oklahoma State University. He has been studying mosquitoes for more than two decades.
The main way for the disease to enter Oklahoma would be from a person traveling with the disease, who then transfers it to the local mosquito population, Norden said. All it would take is one bite of an infected person.
States in the Midwest and eastern United States do minimal surveillance on mosquitoes, according to a June 19 report in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
“Most regions in the United States experience summer temperatures that are conducive to Aedes aegypti development and activity for at least some period of time,” the report said.
Other mosquito diseases
Other types of mosquito diseases — including dengue, West Nile virus, Zika and yellow fever — possibly could make it into Oklahoma.
With rain following a warmer-than-average winter, mosquito populations could be higher than normal this year. Rainfall during the rest of the mosquito season will determine that.
To prevent bites, officials recommend using a DEET, Picaridin or IR3535 containing repellent.
Reapplication times vary between every 10 minutes to 12 hours. A complete list of times can be found online on the Oklahoma Health Department’s website at www.ok.gov/health.
The Tulsa Health Department recommends following these steps to reduce mosquito infestations.