It was just a matter of time until the virus showed up here in Georgia, and now it has. Two men are dead and four others hospitalized with symptoms of West Nile. There are lots of mosquitos in South Georgia so tonight, health workers are warning you to take precautions. Lake Loretta in Albany is a popular spot for walkers and joggers early in the morning and at sunset. Those are the times you need to guard yourself most against mosquitos.
West Nile Virus is in Georgia, and there is no cure. So you have to protect yourself. Mosquitos can breed wherever there is standing water. Old tires filled with water are a favorite breeding spot. Buckets in gardens can become life givers to mosquitos quickly. Those are the kind of danger points health officials want you to keep away from your home.
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, director of the Division of Public Health, said "That is your best protection against West Nile. The reality is that relatively few people who become infected actually develop any symptoms. It's certainly more risk for those, the elderly, or those with a compromise of their immune system."
Dougherty County environmental control technician Michael Chappell checking the water in a drainage ditch finds only one immature larva. The county has stepped up efforts to fight mosquitoes because of the West Nile fear. Environmental control manager Donell Mathis said "We are spraying 5 nights a week, for 5 hours a night. We're doing our larvaciee as well. We are concerned." Trucks are out spraying mosquitoes nightly. But you have to do your part too to protect yourself.
Dr. Toomey said "Use DEET insect repellent and clean up those spots in your yard that may be breeding grounds." West Nile virus causes flu like symptoms and swelling of the brain. It is most dangerous for children, the elderly and the sick.
So when you go out near dawn or dusk, when most mosquitoes are active, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, and use a mosquito repellant that contains DEET. Those are proven to be most effective. The Georgia deaths raise the nationwide toll from West Nile to 15.
More on West Nile-
West Nile is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people who become infected with West Nile virus will have either no symptoms or only mild ones.
On rare occasions, it can cause West Nile encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain), which is fatal.
Symptoms of West Nile include fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash. More severe infection may be marked by headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
Dead birds may mean that West Nile virus is circulating between the birds and the mosquitoes in that area. That's why you should report dead birds to state and local health departments.