No West Nile infections in midstate so far

These days, Terry Walker would like to spend more time outdoors, taking in the first hints of fall’s arrival.

Not now, though. He’s fighting a losing battle with mosquitoes around his home on Cochran Field Road in south Bibb County.

And with reports of West Nile virus infections, he’s even more on guard.

“I can’t sit outside. I stay inside mostly,” the 63-year-old said. “When I’m outdoors cutting the grass, I have to put on some Skin So Soft. That kind of repels them a little bit. Not the big ones, though.”

There have been no reports of West Nile infections in Middle Georgia to date, but the threat is a real possibility.

Across Georgia, 14 cases of West Nile infections have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The counties hit so far are Bartow, Cobb, Columbia, Dougherty, Forsyth, Fulton, Muscogee and Richmond.

For the North Central Health District, which covers 13 midstate counties, “It would not surprise me if we started seeing cases,” said Jennifer Jones, the public information officer for the district.

The latest CDC figures this week showed that the national total for West Nile infections — more than 1,100 — is three times as many as normally reported at this point in the year. About 75 percent of those cases were reported in five states — Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Dakota and Texas — with about half in Texas. There have been 41 deaths so far.

Health officials are calling the outbreak one of the worst ever to hit the U.S.In the Macon area, health officials are doing what they can to let residents know of ways to minimize the risk.

“We continue to monitor what’s going on in other states and try to educate the public about what’s going on,” said Nicky Gary, a health educator for the Macon-Bibb County Health Department.

That includes public service announcements, reminding residents to use mosquito repellent, remove standing water where mosquitoes can breed, wearing long sleeves and pants, and remembering that mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk. The Health Department, located on Emery Highway, is also giving away free bacterial briquettes that kill mosquito larvae.

Symptoms of West Nile virus can resemble the flu, with fever, headaches, body aches, nausea, swollen glands — or worse. People typically develop symptoms three to 14 days after they are bitten by an infected mosquito, but about 80 percent of those infected with West Nile show no symptoms.

That’s small comfort for Walker, who said several abandoned bird baths in a former neighbor’s yard catch and hold water, creating a field day for mosquito breeding.

“I worry about it every day,” he said of the West Nile threat. “If I go outside and sit for any length of time, they bite you.”