First West Nile virus case shows up in Georgia this year

pramati@macon.comJuly 9, 2013 

  • Avoid West Nile

    There are ways for people to reduce the risk of contracting West Nile Virus, state health officials said.
    The prevention method is known as the “Five D’s”:
    • Dusk/dawn: Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus usually bite at dusk and dawn, so limit outdoor activity at those times.
    • Dress: People are encouraged to wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce skin exposure.
    • DEET: Use insect repellent that contains a DEET concentration of at least 20 percent. • Drain: Empty any containers with standing water.
    • Doors: Make sure all doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly, and repair any torn screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.

    Source: Georgia Department of Public Health

With so much rain this spring and summer, it was almost inevitable that someone in Georgia would contract the West Nile virus.

The first positive test for the virus was reported by health officials Monday.

Roger Naylor, an official from the Southeast Health District in Nahunta, said a woman in Brantley County, in southeast Georgia west of Brunswick, became ill from the virus but has since recovered, Naylor said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Georgia had 99 reported cases of West Nile in 2012, six of which were fatal. The virus is transmitted to humans by mosquito bites.

Typically, mosquitoes tend to flourish in areas where water collects, and because of high rain levels this summer throughout the state, there are more of the biting insects.

“The heat and the water are very conducive to West Nile,” said Dr. David Harvey, director of the North Central Health District, which counts Bibb, Houston, Peach, Monroe and Jones counties among the 13 counties it serves. “The elderly are most at risk, for obvious reasons. There’s no vaccine for it.”

West Nile isn’t usually fatal, although in severe cases, it can be. Harvey said it’s a tough illness to diagnose, because the symptoms -- which include headache, diarrhea, fever and rash -- can take three to 15 days to develop after it’s contracted, and are common in other illnesses.

“It takes an astute physician to decide whether it’s worth doing an expensive test (to see if it’s West Nile),” Harvey said. “The majority of people with it are treated symptomatically.”

Because of the rain, Harvey said the state may see cases of West Nile virus appear a little earlier than they usually would, since those cases tend to appear later in the summer.

“Fortunately, most of the people who get West Nile don’t die,” he said. “Lots of people don’t even get sick, while others will get headaches or a rash.”

Harvey said it’s important for people to empty any standing water spots on their property, or to treat the spots with a little bit of motor oil, to keep the mosquitoes away and kill their larvae.

Harvey said the one case that has been reported likely won’t be the last in Georgia.

“I’m expecting to see more,” he said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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