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Fayette, Coweta under alert for mosquitoes carrying W. Nile virus

While no cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in Fayette County, the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH) is recommending that residents take precautions to avoid infection.

Those precautions are worthwhile given that 21 confirmed cases, including three deaths, have been reported recently in the state. DPH officials on Aug. 24 said metro Atlanta along with southern and coastal Georgia are at high risk for West Nile Virus (WNV) transmission.

DPH said confirmed cases of WNV have been reported in Fulton, Cobb, Forsyth, Early, Muscogee, Mitchell, Lee, Bartow, Columbia, Richmond, Dougherty and Worth counties. The cases involved two deaths in Dougherty County and one death in Early County.

“The problem of mosquitoes and West Nile Virus appears to be escalating in Georgia and across the country,” said DPH Director of Health Protection J. Patrick O’Neal. “More West Nile Virus cases have been confirmed by the third week in August than at any time in the last 10 years.”

Residents should avoid outside activities at dusk and dawn since those are the time that mosquitoes carrying WNV usually bite.

If outside, DPH advises wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin. Exposed skin should be covered with an insect repellant such as DEET.

Another precaution involves diminishing the chances for the occurrence of mosquitoes by emptying containers with standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for virus-carrying mosquitoes, DPH said.

Symptoms of WNV include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that usually develop 3-15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The elderly, those with compromised immune systems or those with other underlying conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease, according to DPH.

DPH officials noted that most people who become infected with WNV will fight off the virus without any symptoms or will develop less severe West Nile fever.

But about one in 150 people bitten by infected mosquitoes will develop encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord).

Approximately 10 percent of that small fraction of people with a severe form of WNV infection die from their illness, while others may suffer from long-term nervous system problems.

Nationwide, public health officials have reported 1,118 West Nile virus diagnoses in 38 states, with Texas bearing the brunt of the outbreak with 537 cases and 16 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health officials in Dallas County, Texas, have declared a public health emergency as they grapple with the mosquito-born, flu-like illness, according to a news release issued by Dallas County.

More information on WNV visit the Centers for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.

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