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West Nile virus found in Clayton mosquitos

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

According to local health officials, mosquitos in the northern part of Clayton County have tested positive for the West Nile virus.

The Clayton County Board of Health (BOH) reported Friday that a sample of mosquitos, collected at a monitoring site in northern Clayton County, were found to be carrying the virus, which can be life-threatening to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

"We were notified on Thursday afternoon," said BOH Health Care Liaison Beverly Lester. "Whenever we have a positive finding, it always serves as a good reminder to everyone that the West Nile virus is still out there, and that everyone needs to use precaution when outside."

In May, a 54-year-old Clayton County man was pronounced as Georgia's first confirmed case of West Nile virus this year. While the BOH deemed the case to have turned up unusually early, Clayton County Health Director Alpha Fowler Bryan said that West Nile virus cases are "not uncommon this time of year."

"Our continued heat means mosquitos carrying WNV [West Nile virus] are still thriving," said Bryan, in a written statement.

Symptoms of West Nile virus, according to Bryan, include: headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that usually develops three-to-15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. She said that those with compromised immunity or other underlying medical issues are at greater risk of developing complications from the disease.

Most who contract West Nile virus, will fight off the virus without any symptoms, or will develop less-severe West Nile fever, according to Bryan. However, one out of 150 people bitten by infected mosquitos will develop encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord) she said.

Approximately 10 percent of people with a severe form of West Nile virus infection die from their illness, and others suffer from long-term nervous system problems, Bryan added.

According to Bryan, people can protect themselves from infection by observing the "Five 'D's' of West Nile virus prevention:"

* Dusk -- Avoid outside activity at dusk, as mosquitos carrying West Nile virus usually bite at dusk.

* Dawn -- Another time of day when mosquitos are most active. Avoid outside activity if possible during that time.

* Dress -- Wear loose-fitting clothing, long-sleeved shirts, and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.

* DEET -- Products containing DEET are the most-effective form of mosquito repellent. People should cover exposed skin with a DEET-based bug repellent.

* Drain -- Empty any containers holding standing water (such as gutters, tires, and flower pots), as they are excellent breeding grounds for mosquitos.

People with questions about West Nile virus should call the Clayton County BOH, Environmental Health Department, at (678) 610-7199, ext. 6500, or visit www.claytoncountypublichealth.org.