Take the sting out of West Nile Virus by being cautious

JONESBORO — Clayton County health officials and emergency services personnel have teamed up to make sure residents know what to do to keep from getting West Nile Virus.

Clayton County Board of Health spokesman Joel Hall and Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Chief Jeff Hood are issuing the same self-protection information to all residents.

Beverly Lester, healthcare liaison for Clayton County Emergency Preparedness and Response, said prevention of the virus is vital.

“No cases thus far in Clayton County, but prevention measures still need to be promoted,” she said.

Hall said that as of Aug. 17, the state Department of Public Health reported 12 confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus with 10 additional cases under investigation.

“While there have been no positive human cases of West Nile Virus in Clayton County so far this year, the Clayton County Board of Health recommends that residents remove water from standing containers — where mosquitoes thrive — and to observe the five Ds of prevention,” said Hall.

The first two Ds are dawn and dusk, which is when mosquitoes carrying the virus usually bite. Third is dress, which means wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin. The most effective repellent against mosquito bites contains the chemical DEET, the fourth D. Finally, officials recommend draining all containers holding standing water because they can be excellent breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.

Hall said symptoms of the virus include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that usually develops three to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

“The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, or those with other underlying conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease,” he said.

Hall said about one in 150 people infected with the virus will develop a severe illness, of which symptoms include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks and neurological effects may be permanent, he said.

People with questions about the virus should contact the Board of Health’s Environmental Health Services Department at (678) 610-7470. Additional resources can be accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm and www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm.