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First West Nile virus case shows up in Clayton

By Greg Gelpi

Testing confirmed Tuesday that Clayton County suffered its first human case of West Nile Virus.

The county's first human case was infected in October, Wayne Ford, district epidemiologist with the Clayton County Board of Health, said, but lab tests didn't confirm the case until Tuesday.

The patient was in the hospital for "several" days, but was treated for the disease and released, Ford said. No other details on the victim could be given.

Clayton County's first human case comes after 12 West Nile cases were confirmed in birds earlier this year, he said. The disease is carried in blue jays, crows and birds of prey and transferred to humans by mosquitoes.

Last year, the county reported 14 cases in birds. The cases were evenly dispersed throughout the county with no areas of concentration, Ford said.

The county needed two separate labs to confirm the case, Ford said. That is why the board of health delayed reporting the West Nile Virus case.

The Clayton County case marks 48 cases in the state.

Southern Regional Medical Center said it has prepared to treat West Nile Virus since the disease has become more prevalent in recent years, hospital spokesperson Mike Sawyer said.

"We do have people on hand to handle cases in case of an outbreak or something," Sawyer said. "There are plans in place."

The board of health is urging county residents to take precautions. Cooler temperatures have decreased the number of mosquitoes and risk of getting infected with West Nile Virus, but the danger still exists.

"Even though mosquito activity at present is considerably less due to cooler weather, this human case emphasizes the need for everyone to take West Nile Virus seriously and take action to prevent its spread," Stephen Morgan, the director of the Clayton County Board of Health, said.

People over the age of 50 and those with a history of chronic illness are especially at risk of becoming seriously ill from West Nile Virus, Ford said.

Many who are infected may never realize that they are infected, he said. The symptoms are similar to the flu n headache, fever, fatigue, dizziness, weakness and confusion.

The board advised that residents eliminate standing water and change water in birdbaths and other containers at least twice a week. Screen doors should be repaired to keep mosquitoes outside, and grass and weeds should be mowed to reduce mosquito activity.

When outside, the board recommends wearing long sleeves, shoes, socks and mosquito repellant.

If county residents find a dead blue jay, crow or bird of prey, they should contact the board of health at (770) 961-8399.