Health: Polk County resident becomes state’s sixth person to die from West Nile virus this year.

Health: Polk County resident becomes state’s sixth person to die from West Nile virus this year.

Dr. Unini Odama, health director for the 10-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District.

Media release: Public Health officials have confirmed Georgia’s sixth West Nile virus death this year, an elderly Polk County resident with underlying health conditions that contributed to the death, and are reminding the public to take precautions to prevent the mosquito-borne disease.

“Even though we’re having cooler weather, it’s still mosquito season until our first hard freeze,” said Dr. Unini Odama, health director for the 10-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District.  “People must be aware that West Nile is active throughout Georgia and must protect themselves and their loved ones from mosquito bites.”

The fatality in Polk is the second WNV death in the 10-county Northwest Health District in 2017.  The first was in August in Catoosa County.  There have been at least 38 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne disease in the state this year.  Three have been in Northwest Georgia – one each in Catoosa Floyd, and Polk counties.

“We’ve had just three confirmed WNV cases in Northwest Georgia this year,” Odama said, “but sadly two have resulted in death.  The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those with other underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in all three cases.”

Most people get infected with WNV by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans and other animals. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV.

Symptoms of WNV include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that usually develops three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not have symptoms. About one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.

Anyone with questions about WNV should speak to their healthcare provider or call their local county health department’s environmental health office.  If you think you or a family member might have WNV, consult a healthcare provider for evaluation and diagnosis.

The single most effective way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants from dusk through dawn when many mosquitoes are most active.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors. If you have it, use your air conditioning.
  • Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home. Practice Tip n’ Toss. Empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths.
  • Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.

According to Kathy Couey-Miller, environmental health manager at the Polk County Health Department, “the health department has a limited supply of insect repellent and mosquito dunks or larvicide which can be used to kill mosquito larvae before they mature into biting adults.  These supplies are available free to the public while supply lasts.”

For more information on West Nile virus, visit https://www.cdc.gov/westnile  Information on EPA-registered insect repellants may be found here:  https://tinyurl.com/yb5vscf9

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