West Nile Virus claims its first Georgia victim this year - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

West Nile Virus claims its first Georgia victim this year

August 29, 2006

Albany -- Another warning about the threat of West Nile virus. A 76-year-old East Albany man died from the illness, the first West Nile fatality in Georgia this year.

The only other confirmed case in the state is a woman, also from Albany. The mention of West Nile has many people in South Albany feeling a bit uneasy.

"I'm very scared for my kids to be out here playing, because they run around here," says Dana Thomas who lives on Whitney Avenue.

There, you can find many mosquitoes. "The mosquitoes are very bad in our backyard. There are just hundreds of them back there."

Last Friday, health inspectors tested a pool of water along the 500 block of Whitney Avenue that came back positive for West Nile. Now residents say they have their health to be concerned with.

"It's limited my outside daily routine very much," says Thomas.

"We're doing everything in the county's power and the state's power to work together to concentrate on this issue and reduce the interaction of the West Nile Virus with our people," says County Commissioner Jeff Sinyard.

He says the county is taking the threat of West Nile seriously. "We have literally found the areas which the virus is most concentrated. Today we have folks going door to door giving our literature and pamphlets letting folks know they need to wear light colors, long sleeves, long pants, use deet," says Sinyard.

He also says the county is more than willing to invest money in more services to help reduce the threat of virus. "Whatever resources we have to use in the next days, weeks, months, or years, we're going to do it.  Money is not an issue. It's doing what's necessary to protect our citizens," says Sinyard.

"We can't underestimate this and we all need to what we can to prevent any other cases in this area," says public health director, Dr. Jacqueline Grant.  She says health officials are closely monitoring the virus.

"One of the things we do when we found out about the first case is we quickly contacted mosquito control for the area,"  she says.

In the meantime, Thomas has her own warning to anyone living in Dougherty County. "Beware!  Stay inside, wear protective clothing, wear mosquito spray," says Thomas.

The number of West Nile cases in Georgia has declined the last couple of years. The Centers for Disease Control says the virus first showed up in humans here in 2001 when six people were diagnosed and one died.

The highest number of West Nile deaths, seven, occurred the following year.

2003 saw the highest number of confirmed cases when 50 Georgians were diagnosed.  Cases dropped in '04 and '05.  Twenty people came down with the virus last year and two died.

So far this year, there have been two cases and one death in Georgia, both in Dougherty County.

This Thursday at 6:00 PM, Albany leaders will meet at the Government building in room 100 to discuss ways to prevent the threat of West Nile. The public is encouraged to attend.

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