Carter Co. recruits West Nile Virus experts to educate residents

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ARDMORE, OK -- State health officials are calling Carter County the epicenter of the West Nile Virus. The county has the highest rate of cases per capita in the state.

After 14 West Nile Virus Cases, two of those resulting in death, Carter County health officials decided to step up their efforts to educate the public. Thursday night, they told residents just what steps they are taking to protect them, and what they think is next for the virus in Oklahoma.

Herb Collier works for the Healdton Industrial Authority, and he's been fielding a lot of questions from residents about how the city plans to protect them from West Nile.

"In the process, we're trying to educate ourselves because we're being asked a lot of questions that we're not real sure to," Collier said.

Healdton has had several reported cases of West Nile, one of them fatal. Bill Brady died last month after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

Now, the city is spraying for mosquitoes, hoping to stop the spread of the virus.

State epidemiologist, Dr. Kristy Bradley, says while spraying does help, it is important people fight the bite by educating themselves and taking their own precautions.

"Community mosquito control efforts will help reduce the numbers, but they're not going to completely eliminate it," Dr. Bradley said.

Bradley says researchers have studied the people who have come down with West Nile Virus. They found those who are 65 and older, have high blood pressure and diabetes are most at risk, but they do not know why.

She says outbreaks usually occur every four years, but this year has record breaking numbers.

"I guess we were due in 2012 for an outbreak," she said. "But we were a little surprised. We were taken off guard."

Entomologist, Justin Talley, was also on hand to answer questions. He encouraged residents to mosquito proof their yards by removing standing water. Talley also had some good news.

"Usually we see kind of a tampering off of both mosquitoes and West Nile Virus once it starts getting cooler, especially at nights," Talley said.

Talley said the mosquito population should die off by the end of October.

The experts stress that horses can get the virus and have in both Oklahoma and Texas. Dr. Bradley encourages all owners to get their horses vaccinated.