- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Oklahoma’s first two cases of West Nile virus for the year were not transmitted by bites from the type of mosquitoes that thrive in massive floodwaters like the kind that inundated the state during the past month, health officials said Friday.

Even though the extra moisture caused a spike in the overall mosquito population, the Aedes mosquitoes that breed in floodwaters are mainly considered a nuisance, said Tulsa Health Department epidemiologist Nicole Schlaefli. They hatch after severe flooding and bite aggressively but aren’t believed to carry diseases, she said. The mosquitoes usually die off about three weeks after rains stop.

“The (Aedes) mosquitoes are laying their eggs and are enjoying all this water (so) they are going to be very common and annoying,” Schlaefli said.

The potentially fatal West Nile virus is spread through the Culex mosquito, which feeds on infected birds and then transmits the disease to humans and other animals. The Culex mosquito thrives in mid-to-late summer when the weather is much drier.

“We know that the flooding brings the nuisance mosquitoes, but it’s not associated with West Nile,” said Becky Coffman, an epidemiologist at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which announced Thursday that the first two cases of West Nile virus had been confirmed in residents of Okfuskee and McIntosh counties. “I think the fact we’re having nuisance mosquitoes is a good reminder that you want to protect yourself right now.

“It’s a notification those mosquitoes are going to increase in number,” she said.

The state’s health department said Thursday that the McIntosh County resident was between the ages of 5 and 17, and the Okfuskee County resident was between the ages of 18 and 49. No other information, including the gender of the patients, was available.

Oklahoma health officials called the first two cases anomalies because the highest risk months for exposure to the virus are typically from July through October in the state.

Last year, no deaths related to the West Nile virus occurred in Oklahoma, but the disease caused eight in 2013 in the state and 15 in 2012.

Since being introduced in Oklahoma, the virus has had three outbreak years - 2003, 2007 and 2012, the state health department said. All three involved higher than normal summer temperatures and drought.


This story corrects the county where one of Oklahoma’s first two West Nile virus cases was confirmed.

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