By Curt Yeomans
A 54-year-old Clayton County man has Georgia's first confirmed case of the West Nile Virus for this year, officials from the Clayton County Board of Health announced on Tuesday.
The Georgia Public Health Laboratory in Decatur has confirmed that the man has the virus, which is commonly transmitted by mosquitos, said Clayton County Board of Health Spokesperson Veronda Griffin. Griffin said the board is not releasing which city the man is from, to avoid causing West Nile panics in any particular part of the county.
"We were notified last week that there was a potential case of West Nile in the county, but we have to get confirmation first, which is why we're just now announcing it," Griffin said.
Clayton County health officials are pointing out that the appearance of the virus in early May is unusual for Georgia. Griffin said the virus normally appears in Georgia "in the hotter summer months" of June and July. One possible reason for the earlier start this year, she said, is that this past winter in Georgia was wetter than it has been in the past few years.
Frequent rain storms, and snowfalls have left the area with more water, which mosquitos use as their breeding grounds, Griffin said.
In a written statement, Clayton County District Health Director Alpha Fowler Bryan, urged county residents to be careful to protect themselves from getting the virus because of its earlier appearance this year.
"It is highly unusual for the West Nile Virus to appear so early in the year, and it is a clear sign that our residents need to be very vigilant about protecting themselves during this season," Dr. Bryan said. "We encourage everyone to take precautions while they are outside and to be aware of your surroundings and try to reduce your exposure to mosquito bites."
To reduce the chances of catching the West Nile Virus, the Clayton County Board of Health, in a written statement, recommended that local residents:
* Dispose of old tires.
* Empty water-holding containers, such as metal cans, ceramic flowerpots, bottles, jars, buckets, plastic wading pools, pool covers, outdoor toys and wheelbarrows on a regular basis.
* Make sure swimming pools are constantly clean and chlorinated.
* Repair any leaky pipes and outside faucets on a house.
* Clear rain gutters, and keep them sloped toward the downspout.
* Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers, if they are left outside, to let water drain out of them.
* Check windows and screens, to make sure they are in good condition, and repair any holes that are present in the screens.
* Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when working, or playing outside.
* Use an insect repellent that contains DEET.
* Purchase Mosquito Dunks, which contain a larvicide which can kill mosquito larvae, and use them in areas where standing water cannot be dumped.