OKLAHOMA CITY — Three more Oklahoma residents have died after being infected by the West Nile virus, bringing the total number of victims this year to five, the state Department of Health said Friday.
Statistics provided by the agency indicate that two of the latest victims were Oklahoma County residents, a man who was more than 80 years old and a woman between the age of 60 and 70. The third victim was an Ellis County man who also was more than 80 years old.
The agency said two women and three men have died from the West Nile virus in 2013, including three Oklahoma County residents and one each from Garfield and Ellis counties. All were more than 60 years old and were hospitalized at the time of their deaths. The Health Department said another 33 Oklahomans have been sickened by the mosquito-borne virus this year.
The virus was first recorded in Oklahoma in 2002, when 15 cases were confirmed. It reached a record high for the state last year, when 178 cases were confirmed and 15 people died.
Culex mosquitoes, which tend to thrive in stagnant water, contract the virus from infected birds and pass it along to humans through their bites. Common symptoms include headache, fever and fatigue. West Nile virus can also cause severe neurologic disease such as meningitis, paralysis and encephalitis.
Health officials have urged Oklahomans to take extra precautions against the illness by avoiding mosquito bites and reducing habitats where mosquitoes live and breed. Officials recommend emptying buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots and tires that can hold standing water.