Thirty mosquito samples, all from neighboring Chatham County, have tested positive this year for the West Nile Virus, according to a Coastal Health District release on Sept. 18.
“I know we haven’t had any human cases in our whole district, so that’s good. But the fact that we’re seeing so many mosquitoes with the virus in Chatham County isn’t good. Mosquitoes don’t see county lines – these messages we’re sending out to Chatham also are definitely applicable to Bryan County,” said Ginger Heidel, public information officer for the Coastal Health District.
“Mosquitoes and their prey travel, so we all need to do our part to avoid being bitten,” added Robert Thornton, Coastal Health District epidemiologist.
Overall, Georgia has reported 24 cases, including one death, of the West Nile Virus so far in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sept. 18.
But there have been no reported cases of human infection in Bryan County, the CDC said. The majority of humans who have gotten the virus have generally been in the metro-Atlanta area, according to a U.S. Geological Survey site linked to the CDC.
The Bryan County Public Works Department said there is a “high mosquito problem.”
“Throughout the county, we have several (spray) trucks that run a route until it’s completely covered, every night. They’ll run as long as they’re needed,” said Public Works Administrative Secretary Debbie Harvey.
Skip Youmans, environmental health director of the Bryan County Health Department said it’s important for everyone to protect themselves from those pesky insects. The best protection is to follow the 5 D’s: Dusk, Dawn, Dress, DEET, and Drain.
“Avoid outdoor activity at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Or, if you need to be outside during those times, dress in long sleeves and pants to minimize the amount of exposed skin,” Youmans said.
“Be sure to cover any exposed skin in a mosquito repellent containing the chemical DEET, which has been shown to be effective in repelling mosquitoes. We also need everyone to check their yards and drain any standing water. Stagnant water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so be sure to dump it out of bird baths, tires, or any other areas where water collects in your yard.”
Most people who become infected by West Nile Virus will have no symptoms. But if symptoms do develop, they can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, and paralysis. Milder cases of West Nile Virus often improve without medical treatment, but people with more severe cases usually need to go to the hospital for intravenous fluids, help with breathing, and nursing care, Heidel said.
As far as DEET repellents go, Heidel had some recommendations provided from a variety of sources.
Repellent products must include age restrictions. If there aren’t any listed, that means the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t required one on the product, making it safe for all ages.
If a repellent contains oil of lemon eucalyptus products, it is not recommended for children under three years of age; similarly, DEET is not recommended on children under the age of two months – instead, invest in a mosquito net to be placed over a stroller.
DEET comes in a variety of percentages, ranging, depending on how long outdoor exposure is expected, Heidel says the DEET protection can be matched. A product with 24 percent DEET provides five hours of protection; 20 percent is four hours; seven percent is two hours, and five percent is roughly one and a half hours of protection.