Health Department Cautions People in Middle Georgia of West Nile Virus
Hurricane Isaac's rain storm is leaving a lot of puddles around town, which the Macon/Bibb Health Department said can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying a potentially serious virus that's on the rise in Georgia.
Cases of West Nile Virus haven't been reported in Middle Georgia but the health department is still aware of it
"We're always concerned but we need you to be more vigilante right now than ever," Environmental Health County Manager, Donna Cadwell said.
In the last year there have been 21 reported cases and three deaths in Georgia. While no one has been diagnosed in Central Georgia, the health department said they are keeping an eye out.
"We're monitoring the counties you know around us to see exactly where it may be," department health educator Nicky Gary said.
Counties in Georgia with confirmed cases are Bartow, Cobb, Columbia, Dougherty, Fulton, Forsyth, Early, Lee, Mitchell Muscogee, Richmond and Worth. With the threat so close to home, the health department said they want to remind people to take preventive measures.
"We want to decrease the number of mosquitoes and that's going to possibly decrease your chances of becoming infected by a mosquito that may have West Nile," Gary said.
The health department said just a cap full of still water is enough to breed mosquitoes. The department recommends to empty water lying around in a still state. However, if people have a large pond or body of water that can’t be drained, the department recommends dropping a briquet in to kill any larvae from hatching.
"If you have really big, large spots of water around your house just imagine how many mosquitoes can breed,” Gary said. “So what we want to do is eliminate or decrease the number of mosquitoes."
The department said fewer breeding grounds mean fewer mosquitoes, and people are less likely to catch the virus. The Georgia Department of Public Health is urging people to follow the "Five D's of West Nile Virus Prevention."
The five D’s are:
The department said mosquitoes usually bite during dusk and dawn and people should avoid outdoor activities during that time. The department recommends people to wear loose clothing including long sleeve shirts and pants to cover as much of their body as possible. People are encouraged to buy insect repellent with the chemical DEET and cover their body in it to prevent bites. The department also said that people need to drain empty containers holding still water because they are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
"It's very important to make sure if you have any standing water around your house, that you try to remove it or make sure you know you keep your bird baths rinsed out that sort of thing," Gary said.
People who are bitten by an affected mosquito can see symptoms develop three to 15 days after the bite. Some symptoms of West Nile Virus include headache, swollen lymph nodes, fever, muscle and joint aches and a rash. In extreme cases the virus can affect the brain and spinal cord. Most people infected with the virus will fight it off but elderly and people with weak immune systems are susceptible to the virus
The health department recommends people seeing a healthcare provider if they believe they're bitten.