Health officials urge caution after West Nile
Published 8:25 am Thursday, August 23, 2012
ALBANY- With the number of human West Nile virus cases in Southwest Health District climbing to 12 and including three fatalities, Public Health officials are urging residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
“There have been an unusually high number of West Nile cases across the country and we are seeing the same trend here in our District,” said Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant. “So far this season we have had 12 confirmed cases in people, including seven in Dougherty, two in Lee, one in Early, one in Mitchell, and one in Worth counties.”
Grant said three deaths of older adults have been related to West Nile virus infections.
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“Our sympathies go out to their families,” she said. “We wish there was a vaccine for this disease. Unfortunately, since we have no vaccine, the best protection is to avoid getting bitten by the mosquitoes that carry the infection.”
Ways to reduce the risk of being bitten include:
• Avoid outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active – at dawn and dusk
• Cover exposed skin if you must be outside
• Use insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin
• Drain standing water
• Repair screens
Around 80 percent of those infected with West Nile show no symptoms; while up to 20 percent have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a rash, she said.
“The older you are, the more likely that you could get severely ill if you get infected. People who have received an organ transplant are also at higher risk for severe disease,” Grant said. “Young children and people with compromised immune systems are also at increased risk. One out of roughly 150 infected with West Nile virus develop serious symptoms.”
There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. People with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care, such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment, Grant said. Animals can also be infected with West Nile virus, and a horse in Seminole County has been confirmed with the disease, Grant said.
So far this year, a total of 693 human cases of West Nile virus have been reported to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those cases, 26 resulted in deaths, the CDC reported. This tally is the highest count of West Nile virus human cases for this time in August since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999, according to the CDC. Most of this season’s cases have been reported in Texas. For more information about West Nile Virus, go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org. Additional information is available at www.cdc.gov.