The West Nile virus has been spotted in mosquitoes in at least two Metro Atlanta counties recently, and the CDC says more human cases across the national have been reported this year than ever before.
In a statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,118 human cases, the highest number reported through this point in the year since the disease hit the United States in 1999. The cases resulted in 41 deaths.
To date there have not been any confirmed West Nile virus cases in humans said Karen Shields, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments, or GNRHD.
Although Gwinnett County's epidemiology division investigates reports of West Nile virus in humans, the health department no longer conducts bird or mosquito testing for the virus, Shields added.
"The disease (West Nile) is considered endemic, and further testing could give the public false reassurance - or false fear," Shields said about why the department does not test birds or mosquitoes. "Finding a positive bird or positive pool doesn’t necessarily mean that those people living in a specific area are more at risk than those in an adjacent area that isn't being tested, and thus does not have positive results."
In other nearby areas, mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus and .
The West Nile virus is generally spread by mosquitoes that feed on infected birds, according to the CDC. Eighty percent of people infected by the virus show no symptoms at all, and only one in 150 people infected develop severe illness.
Three-quarters of the human cases have been reported in five states, the CDC says: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota and Oklahoma. Half the human cases have been in Texas.
Shields addded: "It is best to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes either by wearing repellant or avoiding those times of the day when you are more likely to be bitten."
Those times are at dusk and at dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
The CDC offers these tips to help slow the spread of West Nile (Also the attached PDF from the CDC.):
- Regularly remove standing water from flower pots, birdbaths and other outdoor receptacles.
- Clean out clogged gutters.
- Look in hard-to-see places for trash that can hold water.
- Use insect repellant on exposed skin.
- Where long-sleeved clothing and long pants when weather permits.
(Patch Staff contributed to this report. )