West Nile claims first Georgia victim - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

West Nile claims first Georgia victim

September 13, 2007

Albany - West Nile Virus has claimed its first life in Georgia this year. An 80-year old man from Clayton County has died from the mosquito-borne illness. So far, 18 West Nile cases are confirmed in Georgia, three of them in our area, Dougherty, Mitchell and Tift Counties. And with so many mosquitoes buzzing around, a lot of people are worried about catching the virus.

Most of us never even know we have it. "The majority, 80% will show no symptoms at all," said Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

Those blood sucking creatures latch on leaving an itchy bump, but not much else. But West Nile can be serious, even fatal. That's why at Lawn Barber nursery, they spray for all kinds of bugs every seven to ten days. "For the sake of the customers," said Steve Collins, "we just absolutely eliminate them."

In addition to spraying they dump out any standing water, and keep bird baths changed out regularly. And for the sake of the employees, bug spray is never far away.

"We keep mosquito repellent in designated areas for them." Here at Lawn Barber they use so much repellent, the cans are beat up and this one's almost empty.

Mosquitoes usually get the virus from contact with birds that have been infected and then they pass that virus on to you.

"Once that mosquito bites a human or a horse the transmission occurs through the saliva in those animals," said Grant.  

And although mosquitoes are the primary way for humans to contract West Nile, they're not the only way. The virus can be transmitted through blood transfusions, organ transplants and from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn child, and breast milk.

Steve Collins is a bit of an anomaly. He says the mosquitoes which may bug you like crazy, don't bother him at all. "Never bite me." But for the rest of us, it's best not to take chances.

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