West Nile case confirmed

Mon, 09/17/2007 - 8:40am
By: Ben Nelms

Fulton County’s first case of West Nile virus (WNV) was confirmed in a 56 year-old Atlanta man who was treated and released from an area hospital. The infection marks the 12th in Georgia during 2007, with Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness urging residents to take precautions when outside and to clean areas of standing water.

“We are in the season for increased mosquito activity,” says Dr. Steven Katkowsky, director of the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness. “The weather has contributed to growth in the mosquito population which unfortunately adds to our increased risk to mosquito bites.”

Symptoms of WNV include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. WNV can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord and lining of the brain). People with compromised immune systems or other underlying conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease.

“During this time of year, transmission of this potentially serious illness from mosquitoes to humans is at its peak. West Nile Virus is serious but preventable if we take action to reduce our exposure to mosquito bites,” Katkowsky said.

Katkowsky recommended that residents reduce their chances for exposure by eliminating sources of standing water needed for mosquitoes to breed, noting that breeding can occur in any puddle or area of standing water that is present for more than four days. Breeding can occur in sources such as old tires, flower pots, bottles, jars, clogged gutters, wading pools, outdoor toys, or leaky pipes and faucets.

Health and Wellness also recommended using Mosquito Dunks, a larvicide used to kill mosquito larvae, to control mosquitoes in areas with standing water and in containers that cannot be dumped.

Mosquitoes that carry the West Nile Virus bite during the evening, night and early morning. Residents should take precautions to protect family members during these periods. Katkowsky recommended wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants and socks when outdoor, especially at dawn and dusk. Residents may purchase an insect repellent containing the active ingredient N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET), spraying the outer surface of clothing and exposed skin and being sure to follow the instructions on the label

There have been more than 900 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in humans in 32 states so far in 2007, with 12 of those in Georgia, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of the cases nationwide, 26 resulted in death. Most of the human cases have occurred in the western United States. Other cases in Georgia included two in DeKalb County, one in Gwinnett County, one in Cherokee County, one in Cobb County,one in Johnson County, three in Muscogee County, one in Columbia County and one case in Tift County, according to U.S. Geologic Survey. All cases occurred since the first week of July.

West Nile virus did not pose a serious threat to humans until the mid-1990s, when deadly outbreaks sprang up in Romania, Russia, Israel and, eventually, the United States. Researchers at University of California (Davis) are studying the possibility that new strains of WNV contain a mutation in a gene involved in viral replication, thus enhancing the efficiency of infection, according to New Scientist.

For more information on West Nile Virus and prevention methods, call the Mosquito Hotline: 404-730-5296 or contact the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, Division of Environmental Health at (404) 730-1301.

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