Public Health Officials: West Nile Virus Risk Higher After Plentiful Spring Rains

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Northwest Georgia Public Health is watching and waiting to see if the growing mosquito population throughout the 10 county area will cause more cases of West Nile Virus. Logan Boss, district marketing manager and public information officer, is more concerned with the mosquito eggs in backyards than he is about those in the woods. “Now that we're getting into a period of prolonged rains, we're seeing an increase in mosquitoes,” he said. “We've seen mosquito eggs that have been waiting around for water for two years during the drought which are starting to hatch, so we could be dealing with two years’ worth of mosquitoes.” West Nile Virus is the most prevalent mosquito-borne disease, Boss said.

The two primary ways of prevention are to eliminate standing water around the house and making sure to have protection from the insects. “Mosquitoes don't travel too far from where their eggs hatch,” Boss explained. “But along with eliminating those sources of standing water, practicing personal protection is important.” Boss suggested wearing light colors with long sleeves or long legged clothing when outdoors. He also suggested trying to avoid the periods of day when they're most active — early morning and late afternoon — and to use mosquito repellents. “There are a number of repellents out on the market, but all the data shows us that using DEET-based repellents containing 23 percent or more of the chemical work the best,” he said. Boss also said eucalyptus oil has shown some effectiveness in scientific testing to prevent mosquito bites.

In 2008, eight cases of West Nile Virus were reported in Georgia. Two of those cases, according to Boss, were in Floyd County. “That's 25 percent of the state total,” he said. “That could just be a factor of the numbers, but that alone that should make people understand they need to do the two primary things to prevent West Nile virus.” Thought to be a seasonal epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control, West Nile Virus symptoms can be severe in one out of 150 cases, but in four out of five cases there are no symptoms at all. The CDC reports symptoms in severe cases include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms in severe cases may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

In milder cases, symptoms can include fever, headache and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. In the 20 percent of people who show mild symptoms, most of the time the CDC reports symptoms will improve on their own and don’t require needing to see a doctor. But in severe cases, hospitalization is likely required. Symptoms of West Nile Virus can take between three and 14 days to present after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Boss said other mosquito-borne illnesses include Eastern Equine Encephalitis and La Crosse encephalitis, both of which are not as common as West Nile in the Northwest Georgia region. For more information about our mosquito control services in Atlanta, reach out to us today! © romenews-tribune.com 2009.

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