Health officials: West Nile found near Jonesboro

The West Nile Virus has once again shown up in Clayton County, officials with the Clayton County Board of Health confirmed Wednesday.

The virus was found in mosquitos found recently at a Board of Health collection site "in the Jonesboro area," according to the agency's spokesman, Joel Hall. He added that, as far as the agency is aware, the virus' presence is, so far, confined to mosquitos.

"We have identified the presence of West Nile in a sample of mosquitos that we collected in the central part of the county," said Hall on Wednesday. "We haven't actually had a case of West Nile Virus [in humans]."

The board of health is encouraging people to take precautions, so they do not catch the virus, which has symptoms that include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. Elderly residents and people with compromised immune systems, and other underlying health conditions, are at greater risk for catching the disease, according to the health agency.

It has been 11 months since the last reported case of mosquitos testing positive for the virus in the county. The county's last reported case of the virus in a human was made public in May 2010. One in every 150 people who are bitten infected mosquitos develop encephalitis, or meningitis, and 10 percent of people with severe West Nile Virus die because of the illness, according to a board of health news release.

Officials with the health department say the presence of the virus is not out of the ordinary at this time of year, when outside temperatures push, and sometimes exceed, 100 degrees.

"Our continued heat is allowing mosquitos carrying the West Nile Virus to thrive," said Clayton County District Health Director, Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan, in a written statement. "It is very important that people not forget the dangers of West Nile Virus, and take steps to protect themselves."

Board of health officials recommend people remember the "Five D's of WNV [West Nile Virus] Prevention" to make sure they do not contract the illness. The "Five D's" include:

• Dusk — People are asked the health department to avoid engaging in any outdoor activities during dusk and dawn hours — the time when mosquitos that carry the virus usually bite humans and animals, the board of health states in a news release

• Dawn — This "D" was included in the board of health's list for the same reason as "Dusk."

• Dress — Health officials urge people to reduce the amount of exposed skin on their bodies wearing loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants.

• DEET — The board of health recommends people use insect repellents that contain the chemical DEET, which the agency has deemed "the most effective repellent against mosquito bites."

• Drain — Containers that are holding any standing water should be emptied since they can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitos that carry the virus

For more information on the West Nile Virus, go online to www.claytoncountypublichealth.org, send an e-mail to ejones2@dhr.state.ga.us, or call (678) 610-7429.