West Nile Virus Infections On The Rise In Georgia

Luke Roberts
Enterprise Staff Writer
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) announced last week that the organization has confirmed nearly 20 human cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) so far this year, including at least three deaths. In 2016, there were seven cases of WNV in humans and no confirmed deaths related to WNV. Georgians are urged to protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially when they are outside.
“Georgians can reduce the number of mosquitoes around their homes and yards by getting rid of standing water,” said Chris Rustin, Ph.D., DPH director of Environmental Health in a press release. “Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may be infected with West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.”
According to the press release, “Tip ‘n Toss all containers that can collect water - flowerpots, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths - anything that holds water and gives mosquitoes a place to thrive. Mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus look for stagnant water to lay eggs in, so be sure gutters and eaves are clear of leaves and debris.”
The most effective way to protect against WNV infection and all mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika, is to prevent mosquito bites.
The DPH urges Georgians to “follow the ‘Five D’s of Prevention’ during your outdoor activities, which include:
-Dusk/Dawn – Mosquitoes carrying WNV usually bite at dusk and dawn, so avoid or limit outdoor activity at these times.
-Dress – Wear loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.
-DEET – Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites.
-Drain - Empty any containers holding standing water because they are excellent breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.
-Doors – Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly, and fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.
According to the DPH website, symptoms of WNV include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that usually develop three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, or those with other underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease.
Anyone with questions about WNV or Zika should speak to their health care provider or call their local county health department, environmental health office.
For more information about mosquito-borne illnesses and mosquito repellents, please visit dph.ga.gov/environmentalhealth.

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