Public health officials have confirmed two cases of West Nile virus (WNV), including one West Nile-related death, in Northwest Georgia and are urging the public to take precautions to prevent the mosquito-borne disease. “Protecting yourself from mosquito bites, eliminating mosquito breeding grounds, and using larvicides to kill mosquito larva before they can grow into biting adults are the best ways to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile,” says Dr. Unini Odama, health director for the ten-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District.
One nonfatal case is in Floyd County. A second, unfortunate fatal case is in Catoosa County. In Georgia, there have been at least 20 WNV cases so far this year with at least three West Nile-related deaths. This compares with seven WNV cases and no deaths reported in the state in 2016. All victims were elderly and had underlying conditions that contributed to their deaths.
“West Nile virus may be found and is a risk throughout Georgia and the other lower 48 states,” Odama emphasizes. “People should always take precautions to avoid mosquito bites wherever they reside or travel.”
WNV cases occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall, typically until the first hard freeze. July, August, and September are Georgia’s months of highest risk for WNV transmission.
Most people get infected with WNV by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans and other animals. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV.
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.
Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not have symptoms. About one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.
Anyone with questions about WNV should speak to their healthcare provider or call their local county health department’s environmental health office. If you think you or a family member might have WNV, consult a healthcare provider for evaluation and diagnosis.
The single most effective way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites:
• Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.
• Wear long sleeves and pants from dusk through dawn when many mosquitoes are most active.
• Install or repair screens on windows and doors. If you have it, use your air conditioning.
• Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home. Practice Tip n’ Toss. Empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths.
• Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.
For more information on West Nile virus, visit https://www.cdc.gov/westnile Information on EPA-registered insect repellants may be found here: https://tinyurl.com/yb5vscf9
About the Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District: The Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District works to track and prevent the spread of disease; promote health, safety, and wellbeing through education and communication; and prepare for, respond to, and ensure our communities are ready to handle public health emergencies, thereby improving the quality of life for individuals and families in ten northwest Georgia counties: Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding, Polk and Walker. Our county health departments provide exceptional medical services; monitor area environmental safety, including restaurant inspections; and help ensure their communities are prepared for disasters. Find us on the web at www.nwgapublichealth.org and