West Nile endemic in south Georgia - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

West Nile endemic in south Georgia

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

October 21, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - You could have West Nile Virus and never know it. It happened to two people in Dougherty County and one in Lee County who never would have known they had the virus until they gave blood.

Health officials say, it's likely there are more cases in southwest Georgia because the disease is endemic in mosquito.

It's easy to get lost in a crowd, but anyone in that crowd can be infected with West Nile virus. Most people don't even realize they're infected. In fact, 4 out of 5 who contract West Nile Virus don't develop any type of illness.

"Most people may have no symptoms at all or very mild symptoms that they may feel that it's just a cold or the flu," said Dr. Jacqueline Grant, Southwest Public Health Director.

Lab tests recently confirmed three cases of West Nile that may not have been discovered if the three people ages 23, 38, and 46 hadn't donated blood. The Red Cross routinely tests for the disease along with nine others.

"I believe that was begun by the Red Cross back in 2003 and the Red Cross continues to routinely check for West Nile virus on every unit that's donated," said Clif Redish, Red Cross Collections Manager.

Symptoms from a bite can take up to two weeks to appear, but like most, the three who tested positive mild symptoms never made them suspect West Nile.

"West Nile Virus 99 percent of the time causes a mild infection or no symptoms at all," said Grant.

That's why the Red Cross says it's important to have accurate tests.

"The Red Cross uses a nucleic acid testing which identifies the genetic material of the West Nile Virus which identifies the virus faster and more accurately than some other tests," said Redish.

To prevent tainted blood from infecting those who likely would get sick from West Nile. The recently confirmed cases stress the need for prevention.

Health officials remind you time should limit your time outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are active and reducing the amount of standing water around your home can also reduce the risk of a mosquito bite.


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