West Nile Virus has been a factor in the deaths of at least five people in Georgia so far in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention announced in data released Tuesday. More than two dozen cases have been reported since the beginning of the year.
In 2016, there were only six cases total for the entire year in Georgia, and no deaths. Only California has seen more deaths from the virus this year, with six people reportedly dead in connection to West Nile.
West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquito bite when mosquitoes feed on infected birds and then infect humans and other animals.
It is usually not considered an especially dangerous disease. According to the CDC, 70-80 percent of infected people do not develop any symptoms at all. About 20 percent develop flu-like symptoms that can result in long-lasting fatigue and weakness.
In fewer than one percent of infected people, severe neurological illnesses, such as meningitis or brain swelling, can occur, leading to lasting damage. About 10% of the people who display these symptoms will die from them
There is no vaccine or cure, and those 60-years-old and older are more likely to develop serious symptoms.
Health officials said the best way to prevent the illness is to minimize contact with mosquitoes who could carry the virus.
“Georgians can reduce the number of mosquitoes around their homes and yards by getting rid of standing water,” said Chris Rustin of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may be infected with West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.”
The DPH advised Georgians to follow the “Five D’s of Prevention” during outdoor activities.
- Dusk/Dawn – Mosquitoes carrying WNV usually bite at dusk and dawn, so avoid or limit outdoor activity at these times.
- Dress – Wear loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.
- DEET – Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites.
- Drain - Empty any containers holding standing water because they are excellent breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.
- Doors – Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly, and fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.
Scott Berson: 706-571-8578, @ScottBersonLE