3 cases of West Nile confirmed in Houston County

jburk@macon.comOctober 12, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Three cases of West Nile virus in Houston County were confirmed this week, according to the North Central Health District.

Those affected were a 10-year-old boy, a 65-year-old man and a 70-year-old woman. Each was hospitalized.

The cases happened several weeks ago but were just confirmed by lab tests this week, with the most recent test confirmed Thursday, Jennifer Jones, spokeswoman for the North Central Health District, wrote in an e-mail.

She said she couldn’t be any more specific about the location of the cases other than to say they were in north Houston County.

These are the first confirmed cases of West Nile virus in the 13-county North Central Health District. As of Tuesday, there were 54 confirmed cases of the virus in Georgia. Four people in the state have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and virus incidents are increasing across the nation.

The last confirmed case of West Nile virus in the North Central Health District was in Bibb County in 2010, Jones said.

The virus is most commonly spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no way of knowing the where those infected were when bitten, Jones said.

“While we have only seen confirmed cases in Houston County, this should serve as a reminder for all Middle Georgians that disease-carrying mosquitoes are out there, and residents should protect themselves against mosquito bites,” Dr. David Harvey, district health director, said in the release. “Cooler weather will help alleviate some of the mosquitoes in our area, but residents should still be cautious.”

The district provides the following tips for protection from West Nile virus.

• Avoid outdoor activity at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes carrying the virus are most likely to bite.

• Reduce the amount of exposed skin by wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants.

• Wear an insect repellent containing DEET.

• Empty containers of standing water, which can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Symptoms of West Nile virus usually develop three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They include: headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash, the release states.

Most people infected with the virus will not get sick. Some may develop encephalitis or meningitis. About one in 10 people with a severe form of the infection die from the illness, the release states.

The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are at the greatest risk.

The North Central Health District includes Baldwin, Bibb, Crawford, Hancock, Houston, Jasper, Jones, Monroe, Peach, Putnam, Twiggs, Washington and Wilkinson counties.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 256-9705.

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