The Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health recently confirmed the first two cases of West Nile Virus this year in the state. The cases involve a 57-year-old resident of Gwinnett County and a 52-year-old resident of Johnson County.
"Even though West Nile Virus often causes mild symptoms, serious cases can develop, therefore we recommend that Georgia residents take personal protective measures to avoid mosquito bites," said Dr. Stuart Brown, Director of the Division of Public Health.
In 2006 there were nine confirmed cases of WNV in Georgia, including one death.
West Nile virus 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 one 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 few people, most often older than 50 years of age, 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 may be fatal.
The most common mosquito-borne viruses that circulate in Georgia every year include Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile and La Crosses 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 steps to prevent mosquito bites:
- Dawn and dusk are the times of day that mosquitoes are most active, avoid outdoor activity at these times. Dress appropriately when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are most active.
- Use insect repellent 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.
- 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.
For more information about West Nile Virus visit http://health.state.ga.us/epi/vbd/mosquito.asp.
– Georgia DPH