2008-08-20 / Health

Georgians urged to take precautions against West Nile Virus

ATLANTA - The Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health reminds individuals across the state to take precautions against West Nile Virus (WNV) as experts begin mosquito surveillance and testing for arboviral diseases. It is during surveillance that experts typically find viruses (such as West Nile and LaCrosse Encephalitis) in mosquitoes that can be transmitted to humans. Last year, the Division of Public Health confirmed more than 52 human cases of West Nile virus across Georgia - including one death. No human cases have been confirmed for the current year.

"We want individuals across Georgia to start protecting themselves against West Nile virus now," said Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford, acting director of the Division of Public Health. "Even if residents do not believe mosquitoes are biting, we still encourage them to wear repellant anytime they are outside to safeguard against this virus. We do not want Georgians to wait until we have confirmed a human case of West Nile virus to begin wearing repellant. Prevention is the key here."

WNV usually infects birds, but it can be spread to humans by mosquitoes that feed on infected birds and then bite humans. Most people bitten by infected mosquitoes do not get sick. Less than 1 percent of people infected with WNV develop serious illness such as encephalitis or paralysis. People who have chronic medical conditions are at greater risk of developing severe illness if infected with WNV.

Those who do get sick from WNV often suffer a mild flu-like illness and recover without treatment. In rare cases, WNV can cause serious illness such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). These severe cases, which are more likely to occur in people aged 50 or older, may be fatal.

The most common mosquito borne viruses that circulate in Georgia every year include Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile and La Crosse viruses. Mosquito borne viruses are most active late spring through early fall in Georgia. Increased numbers of human cases are normally detected in August.

While there is no vaccine and no treatment to protect people from WNV infection, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection.

THREE SIMPLE STEPS TO PREVENT MOSQUITO BITES:

1. Avoid outdoor activity at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Dress appropriately when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are most active.

2. Use insect repellant with an EPA-approved active ingredient such as DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Always follow the directions on the package for safest and most effective use.

3. Areas with standing water are locations where mosquitoes will lay eggs. Get rid of or treat standing water with larvicides. Dump out containers such as recycling bins, empty flower pots and other containers that may collect water. Change water in birdbaths or small wading pools at least once a week.

Please visit http://health. state.ga.us/epi/vbd/mosquito. asp for more information about West Nile Virus in Georgia.

Return to top