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Mosquitoes still pose health threats
State reports four west Nile cases
asian tiger mosquito2
A mosquito’s bite can transmit diseases such as west Nile virus. - photo by Photo provided.
Protect yourself from pests

The five “Ds” for preventing mosquito-born illnesses:
• Dusk: 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 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.
Ever wondered why Noah didn’t swat those two annoying mosquitoes that buzzed onto the ark? Residents in South Georgia likely would not miss the biting insects which are known to transmit such diseases as west Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis.
“Mosquitoes are always a concern, particularly this time of year when the combination of warm weather and summer rains can lead to an overabundance of mosquito larvae,” said Sally Silbermann, spokesperson for the Coastal Health District. “To date, there have been no confirmed animal or human cases of eastern equine encephalitis or west Nile virus in the Coastal Health District which includes Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should let our guard down. Animals and humans are susceptible to EEE and WNV, both of which can be very dangerous and even fatal.”
Arty Schronce, with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, said although human infections of west Nile are rare, people should take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
“Studies have shown that normally only a small percentage of humans infected with the virus will show symptoms of disease and even fewer will develop any serious complications,” Schronce wrote in an informational brochure. “Even if an infected mosquito bites you, chances of becoming ill are very low. If an illness does occur after a mosquito bite, particularly with fever, confusion, muscle weakness, or severe headaches, or if your eyes become unusually sensitive to light, you should consult your physician. Your health care provider will determine what kind of treatment you require and whether or not you should have any specific laboratory tests performed.”
In 2009 there were four confirmed cases of West Nile virus activity and two fatalities in the state, according to the Centers for Disease Control website. In 2008 there were eight confirmed cases and no fatalities in Georgia. And in 2007 Georgia had 50 recorded cases of West Nile Virus activity and one fatality.
As of Aug. 18, Silbermann said there have been four confirmed human cases of west Nile virus in Georgia this year.  Clayton, Dougherty, Gwinnett and Henry counties each reported one case of human infection to the CDC, she said.
Silbermann said there have been two cases of eastern equine encephalitis in horses in Brantley County this year, and one horse in Burke and one in Atkinson counties were reported to be infected with EEE.
“Continuing EEE activity in horses in the south Georgia and north Florida indicates that humans are at higher risk of EEE exposure,” she said. “EEE is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito and while eastern equine encephalitis is rare in humans, it is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Silbermann recommends residents eliminate mosquito-breeding grounds whenever possible.
“Something as simple as a plate that sits underneath an outdoor plant can gather water and become a mosquito breeding ground,” she said. “Outdoor watering containers for animals such as horses — or even outside dogs and cats — can also breed mosquitoes; which is why they should be cleaned out every few days. Staying indoors during peak mosquito hours (dawn and dusk) is also recommended.”
Schronce said folks can wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors to avoid mosquito bites or they can wear insect repellent containing DEET.
He advises people not to purchase “bug zappers” or machines that emit ultrasound to keep mosquitoes at bay.
“They are a waste of money,” Schronce said.  “Bug zappers actually make things worse by attracting more mosquitoes to the area, and they end up killing thousands of beneficial insects that do not bother people.”
He said citronella candles and coils are effective at repelling mosquitoes in small areas and under windless conditions.
Liberty County helps control mosquito breeding grounds through the regulated spraying of pesticides.
“We cover the whole county (except for the cities of Hinesville and Flemington) once a week,” said Liberty County Mosquito Control Supervisor Jack Vereen. “August and September are the worst times of the year for mosquito activity. Temperatures become more moderate and people begin spending more time outdoors.”
Vereen said the greater the number of migratory birds, the higher the risk of mosquito-born diseases.
“They feed on birds and then they feed on man and transmit that to humans,” he said.
Vereen said large storm drains such as those found in densely populated urban areas — such as New York City or metro Atlanta — can produce large populations of mosquitoes.
“We’ve got over 400 storm drains in Liberty County, but we try to keep them treated,” he said. Vereen said the drains have been fairly dry this year and he doesn’t foresee any significant problems unless a tropical storm was to produce an inordinate amount of rain.
“We start putting out traps when mosquitoes show up and send them to a lab to be tested for any mosquito viruses,” he said. “We do our own identifications here at Liberty County Mosquito Control.”
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