SWGA residents diagnosed with West Nile Virus

Two more Southwest Georgia residents in Dougherty County have been diagnosed with West Nile Virus infections, bringing the season total to four in Southwest Health District.

All four cases have been linked to the same community, prompting a quick response from Dougherty County Public Works, Dougherty County Environmental Health and Southwest Health District to assess the area. The team’s efforts include setting mosquito traps and additional pesticide spraying. Recent rains have made mosquito breeding conditions favorable.

“With four cases in less than a month, it is safe to say that West Nile Virus is here and we are concerned,” said Southwest Health District Epidemiologist Jacqueline Jenkins.

The most recent patients include a middle-aged male with underlying health conditions who is hospitalized and an older adult male who was hospitalized but has been released.

The best protection against West Nile Virus is to avoid being bitten by mosquitos that carry the potentially dangerous infection, said Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Charles Ruis.

Ruis offered tips for protection against mosquitoes:

Apply insect repellent. DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective repellents recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When possible, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks, particularly at dawn and dusk and in mosquito-prone areas.

Eliminate standing water in gutters, planters, toys, wheelbarrows and old tires.  A mosquito needs only a few drops of water in order to breed and lay eggs.

Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines to discourage mosquitoes.

Ensure window and door screens fit tightly to keep mosquitoes out of the home.

Ruis added that 80 percent of the people infected with West Nile Virus experience no symptoms. “It has no noticeable effect on them,” he said.

“About 20 percent of infected people will experience symptoms such as headache, fever, fatigue, joint pain and weakness,” he said. “The majority of those will make a complete recovery within a few days.”

But about one percent of people infected with West Nile Virus will develop severe symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches and mental status changes. Ruis added, “Uncommonly, the outcome is death.”

West Nile Virus cannot be transmitted from person to person. “Further, humans are considered dead-end hosts where West Nile is concerned,” Ruis said. “This means that even a mosquito cannot bite an infected human and transmit the virus to another human, in contrast to the Zika virus.”

Those most at risk of severe illness from West Nile Virus include those with pre-existing medical conditions and older adults.

For more information about West Nile Virus, visit www.cdc.gov or contact the Seminole County Health Department at (229) 495-6590.

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