So far, no cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Southwest Health District this season, and public health officials would like to keep it that way.
“West Nile virus is a potentially dangerous mosquito-borne illness for which we have no vaccine,” said Jackie Jenkins, the director of epidemiology and surveillance for Southwest Health District. “The best protection is to avoid getting bitten.”
Around 80% of those infected with West Nile show no symptoms, while up to 20% have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a rash, said Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.
“Those at risk of experiencing complications and severe illness from a West Nile infection include older adults, people who have received an organ transplant, young children and people with a compromised immune system,” she said. “One out of roughly 150 infected with West Nile virus develop serious symptoms.”
There is no specific treatment available for West Nile virus. “People with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment,” Grant said.
Jenkins said the number of WNV cases typically peaks in the region in August.
Although Southwest Health District was spared in recent years, the infection is capable of claiming lives, she said. In 2006, a Dougherty County man was the state’s sole WNV fatality.
To reduce the risk of being bitten, Jenkins suggested:
- Avoiding outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active – at dawn and dusk
- Covering exposed skin if you must be outside
- Using insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin
- Draining standing water
- Repairing screens