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West Nile Virus Continues to be a Threat

SafetySmart Lilburn talks about Georgia's pesky mosquitoes and the threat of West Nile virus.

Although it is close to the end of September, the West Nile virus is still around We often think that, after the summer months, such threatening illnesses go away until the winter months set in. 

Although the rate of increase has slowed from 30 percent in early September to 13 percent in the later part of the month, October is still a month of concern.

So, far there have been a total of 3,545 reported cases for the year. And, the CDC adds that the number of cases this year is the highest reported to federal health officials through the last week in September since 2003, the year with the most cases.

The worst infestation is reported in Texas (about 38 percent of all reported case), but at least a few cases have been reported in every state except Alaska and Hawaii. Of those infected, 147 have died from the virus, the CDC reports.

Every resident of Georgia should be aware of the threat from West Nile-infected mosquitoes and guard against mosquito bites while outside. All 48 states in the contiguous U.S. have reported birds infected with the virus. After mosquitoes bite infected birds, they transmit to animals and mammals, including humans, with a second bite.

As of Sept. 25, some 43 human cases have been reported in Georgia -- one of those is in Gwinnett County was also a fatality, according to the CDC.

With two varieties of virus floating around, there is no guarantee that symptoms experienced will be the mild version: flu-like symptoms which are almost never lethal. More than half of reported infections (one case in 150) have been from the more dangerous version which may lead to inflammation of the brain and death.

Symptoms include neurological conditions such as meningitis, encephalitis and other illnesses that can cause disorientation, cognitive impairment, muscle weakness, and movement problems that resemble those of Parkinson's disease.

The climate conditions of 2012 have set up an ideal environment for mosquitoes to flourish: hot temperatures, regular rainfall during the hot months and an optimal distribution of birds and mosquitoes. Regular heavy rain will wash away the breeding ground, but heavy spring rains followed by summer dry spells set up conditions for breeding pools to proliferate.

Everyone should consider using insect repellent (citronella or Bounce sheets in the pocket are reported to keep most flying pests at bay), or reducing activity at dusk (when mosquitoes are more active) and emptying standing water from all containers around the house.  Even a drop of rain caught in a curled leaf can serve as a breeding ground for mosquito eggs.  So it isn’t just to improve the way things look that gardeners are encouraged to remove old leaves from their gardens and yards; it helps keep family and neighbors healthy!

For additional information about West Nile, click here or here.

You might also be interested in reading:

  • West Nile Virus Fatality Reported in Gwinnett
  • Mosquitoes Testing Positive for West Nile Virus

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(Margot Ashley, the author of this piece, is president of SafetySmart Lilburn. To learn more about the organization, check out their website.)

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