The Edmond Sun

Local News

August 16, 2012

Governor: Be proactive, protect against West Nile virus

EDMOND — Gov. Mary Fallin is joining with state and local public health officials to raise awareness of West Nile virus and the steps Oklahomans should take to protect themselves from the mosquito-borne illness.

“West Nile virus is a serious disease that can be life-altering or even fatal,” Fallin said. “Many of our fellow Oklahomans are now hospitalized with West Nile virus. Even though we are early into the season, at least 61 cases and three deaths have been reported in Oklahoma. The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites.”

Fallin urged Oklahomans to “fight the bite” by taking personal precautions to reduce the risk of mosquito bites, including using insect repellent when going outdoors, installing or repairing screens on windows and doors, and emptying standing water from items outside the home like buckets, cans, flower pots and tires so mosquitoes have no place to breed. Bird baths and outdoor pet water bowls should be emptied and refilled daily and leaves and debris should be cleaned from gutters to ensure they are not clogged.

“This disease has hit Oklahomans hard this year and unfortunately, those who seem to be most at risk are older citizens,” Fallin said. “If you know persons who might be at particular risk, such as parents or grandparents over age 50, please check with them to make certain they are taking precautions.

“In addition, anyone spending significant time outdoors must also make certain to use insect repellent and carry it with them for reapplication if necessary. Oklahomans are or will soon be gearing up for night-time outdoor activities like high school football games, athletic practices, lakeside camping, gardening and evening jogs. Farmers and those who work outside are particularly susceptible to the disease. Everyone in these circumstances must be sure to take proper precautions.”

Fallin urged those who believe they have contracted West Nile to seek immediate medical attention.

“Symptoms appear within 3 to 15 days after exposure and generally appear flu-like, with head-aches, muscle weakness, fever and nausea all being common. Anyone who suspects themselves of having West Nile virus should immediately contact a doctor.”

West Nile virus is a seasonal epidemic that begins in late summer and continues into the fall. Case activity spikes every three to four years depending on conditions that encourage a higher number of infected mosquitoes. Healthy, active adults who are 50 and older have the highest risk of illness, including neuroinvasive disease, which causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The age range of cases reported among Oklahomans this year is from 12 to 90 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 32 states have West Nile cases.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s website at www.health.ok.gov.

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    The state’s unemployment rate was more than 7 percent when Fallin was elected during the brink of the Great Depression. Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, pointed out that per capita income in Oklahoma was second in the nation from 2011 to 2013.
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    President Barack Obama in February signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.
    Weintz said the governor believes tax cuts have enabled families to keep more of their money.
    No one is talking about the under-employment rate of families working minimum wage jobs, Dorman said.
    “It’s all fine and good when you have fast-food jobs that don’t cover the bills and that counts toward your unemployment rate.”
    Oklahoma’s minimum wage reflects the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, a standard set in 2009.
    Fallin signed legislation this year to prohibit municipalities from raising their local minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.
    “If the minimum wage goes up to $15 in Oklahoma City, all of the sudden you would drive retail, business, service industry locations outside of the city limits and that would be detrimental to the economy, consumers and to businesses,” Weintz said.
    Fallin has said that she opposes raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma because it would stifle job growth for small business and lay off workers. A lot of people earning the $7.25 minimum wage are part-time workers and many of them are students, Weintz said.
    “We believe raising the minimum wage is not a good way to address poverty,” Weintz said. “A lot of people earning the minimum wage are actually people living with their parents or other people who are employed full time, and in many cases they are middle class families. So it’s not a good tool to reduce poverty.”
    Dorman said he does not necessarily support the proposed $10.10 an hour minimum federal minimum wage that is being discussed by Congress.
    “I think we need to have a living wage in Oklahoma that is reflective of our economy,” Dorman said.
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