0

West Nile cases up in Georgia

COVINGTON -- Cases of West Nile Virus are on the rise in Georgia, with 21 confirmed so far this year, resulting in three deaths, prompting state health officials to warn the public to take protective measures.

Georgia counties with confirmed cases are Bartow, Cobb, Columbia, Dougherty, Fulton, Forsyth, Early, Lee, Mitchell, Muscogee, Richmond and Worth.

Mosquitoes from 54 West Nile Virus monitoring sites in metro Atlanta and another 20 in coastal and south Georgia have tested positive for the virus that can lead to brain or spinal cord swelling, or even death. The Department of Public Health has deemed these areas at high risk for WNV transmission.

"The problem of mosquitoes and West Nile Virus appears to be escalating in Georgia and across the country," said J. Patrick O'Neal, M.D., the Department of Public Health's director of health protection. "More West Nile Virus cases have been confirmed by the third week in August than at any time in the last 10 years."

Locally, the city of Covington sprays Monday through Thursday from 7 to 10 p.m.

To help prevent mosquito breeding grounds, "Residents can do the usual things like making sure there is no standing water on their property, periodically change out water in bird baths and pet water bowls should be changed out daily," said Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon. "Old tires or cans and bottles on your property can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes too -- anything that holds water."

While the city of Conyers does not spray for mosquitoes, if residents report a problem with mosquitoes related to standing water, the city will come out and put tablets in the water to kill the bugs, said Spokeswoman Jennifer Edwards. So far this year, the city has received no complaints, she added.

The Georgia Department of Public Health also urges the public to prevent water from standing in containers and to observe the "Five D's of West Nile Virus Prevention."

The five Ds are:

Dusk - Be aware that mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus usually bite at dusk and dawn.

Dawn - Avoid outdoor activity at dusk and dawn if possible. If you must be outside, be sure to protect yourself from bites.

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 the chemical DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites.

Drain - Empty any containers holding standing water because they can be excellent breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. Symptoms 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 conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease.

Of those who become infected with WNV, most will fight off the virus without any symptoms or will develop less severe West Nile fever. But about one in 150 people bitten by infected mosquitoes will develop encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord). Approximately 10 percent of people with a severe form of WNV infection die from their illness, and others suffer from long-term nervous system problems.

People with questions about WNV should speak to their healthcare providers or call their local county health department or environmental health office. More information can be found on the CDC's website at

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.

Staff Reporter Crystal Tatum contributed to this story.