There have been 21 confirmed cases of the virus in Georgia, including three deaths, according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Public Health on Friday.
These include three confirmed cases in neighboring Cobb County and one in Bartow. Others were seen in Columbia, Dougherty, Fulton, Forsyth, Early, Lee, Mitchell, Muscogee, Richmond and Worth counties.
The department has deemed 54 monitoring sites in metro Atlanta as “high risk” for West Nile Virus transmission since they have tested positive for the virus.
J. Patrick O’Neal, the department’s director of health protection, said in the release the problem of mosquitoes and West Nile virus appears to be escalating across Georgia and the rest of the country.
“More West Nile virus cases have been confirmed by the third week in August than at any time in the last 10 years,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal urged Georgians to guard against mosquitoes by eliminating water from standing containers, where mosquitoes are known to thrive.
Raymond King, environmental health director with the state department, said the wet weather forecast may also have an impact on the mosquito population, and that the virus still could be a concern despite the rain.
“When it rains a lot, the larvae of all mosquitoes, they just get washed out,” King said. “But if you get a period with sporadic rain and hot weather in between, those are ideal for Southern House mosquitoes.”
King said the Southern House mosquito is the primary type seen in the South and the species that most often carries and infects people with West Nile virus. He added that it takes about eight days for mosquitoes to grow from an egg to a mature adult.
King said only about two to five people out of every 100 who are infected develop any symptoms. These usually include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that typically develops three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
“People that are most susceptible are the very young, old and those with compromised immune systems,” King said. “They should take extra precautions.”
According to the state department, approximately 10 percent of people with a severe case of the infection die, while others may suffer from long-term nervous system problems.
O’Neal also described the “Five D’s of WNV Prevention,” which may help Cherokee County resident remember how to protect themselves.
The list mentions certain things to avoid and take precaution about when exposed to mosquitoes.
They are: “dusk” and “dawn,” when mosquitoes carrying the virus usually bite and a time to also avoid outdoor activity; “dress,” as people should wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin; “DEET,” the main ingredient in many insect repellents Georgia Department of Health said were the most effective in repelling mosquitoes; and “drain,” since all containers with standing water are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
More information on West Nile Virus can be found at the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile. Further information on repellents is also available from the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm.