Mosquito Bites Are Cause For Concern

8/21/2009

Jennifer Parks Staff Writer The Albany Herald Saturday, July 25, 2009

ALBANY - Theoretically, all it takes to contract the West Nile virus is one bite. And while most people bitten by Southwest Georgia mosquitoes don't become sick, there are others who aren't so lucky. So with West Nile nearing its peak season, health officials are warning residents to take precautions against the impact of mosquito bites. "I just think it's one of those things people need to be aware of," said Southwest District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant. "The last thing on peoples' minds right now is mosquitoes." Eight cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in Georgia last year, including cases in Dougherty, Lee and Mitchell counties.
Almost 29,000 people in the United States have been reported with the disease since 1999, 11,760 of whom have been seriously ill and more than 1,100 of whom have died. "We know West Nile is out there," Grant said. "We are trying to be proactive." This warning from health officials comes two months after a health emergency was declared when an abundance of standing water left behind by torrential rainfall in the area resulted in a significant increase in the mosquito population. Asked if those circumstances would increase the West Nile concern, she replied, "If there's still a lot of stagnant water around, I'm sure." The increase in the mosquito population and the numerous complaints from residents had public works crews working seven days a week to bring the insect traffic under control. Dougherty County Environmental Control Manager Donell Mathis was not available Friday to comment on the current status of the mosquito population.
Around 80 percent of those infected with West Nile show no symptoms, while 20 percent exhibit symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a rash. The West Nile season starts in a late summer to early fall timeframe, with activity peaking in August. To date, there have been no human cases reported in the Southwest Health District this year. There is no vaccine available for West Nile virus, and there is no specific treatment. Those with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment. One of every 150 persons infected with the virus develops serious symptoms. Young children and people with compromised immune systems are among the groups most as risk.
Ways to reduce the risk include: - Avoid outdoor activity at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. - Cover exposed skin if outdoor activity is necessary. - Use insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET, oil of lemon, eucalyptus or picaridin. - Drain standing water and repair screens. For more information about West Nile Virus, go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org. Additional information is available at www.cdc.gov.

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