Nationwide, confirmed cases of the West Nile virus have drastically increased. Recently, four cases were reported from southern Georgia.
Last year, 712 confirmed cases of West Nile virus was reported by the National Center for Disease Control, CDC. The most recent reports nationwide for 2012 have the total already up to 1,331, with 41 of the cases being fatal. More than 50 percent of these cases have been reported from the Texas.
Troup County Environmental Health Manager Melinda Bailey stated that there hasn’t been any confirmed cases of individuals with the West Nile virus in Troup County. She then went on to state that, “Troup County has never had a positive sample of the West Nile virus in either birds or mosquitoes.”
Even though Troup County has, so far, escaped having individuals knowingly contracting this virus, it is important to understand how this epidemic is spread and what preventative measures may be taken.
The West Nile virus is a disease that is carried by birds but is passed on to humans, and other mammals, by mosquitoes that have fed on these birds. Since the mosquitoes are the vehicles by which the West Nile virus is transferred to humans, the virus is often referred to as a mosquito-borne disease.
Approximately 80 percent of the people who are bitten by an infected mosquito and contract the virus, may not show any symptoms, or they may develop a mild reaction called the West Nile fever. Symptoms usually develop between three and 14 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. The more severe and fatal reactions of the disease usually affect individuals who are over the age of 50.
The most severe form of the virus is called West Nile encephalitis. Symptoms of this disease may be flu-like and the infected individual could experience headache, fever, nausea,vomiting, swollen lymph glands, and rash. Hospitalization is required for severe cases of this disease.
Currently there isn’t a vaccine for the West Nile virus but by using personal protection and eliminating local mosquito breeding grounds, the chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito and contracting this disease may be drastically reduced.
When outdoors, use an effective insect repellent, or wear long sleeves and pants. Insect repellents that contain DEET, oil of eucalyptus (p-methal3, 8-diol), or permethrin may be used on clothing but never directly on the skin. As always, only use these and other like products according to the directions given on the label of the specific product.
Sources of standing water provide perfect mosquito breeding environments. Yards and nearby properties should be routinely monitored to identify and eliminate any standing water. Old tires, buckets, rain gutters, and unused wading pools are areas that need particular attention. Pet drinking bowls and bird baths should be regularly flushed and changed.
A further precaution to take would be to avoid outdoor activities that take place at dusk or at night, the times that mosquitoes are most active.
One of the many responsibilities of the Troup County Environmental Health Department has is to actively monitor the area for any presence of the West Nile virus. For further information, contact the Troup County Environmental Health Department at 706-298-3702.