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West Nile found in Dougherty County

ALBANY, Ga. -- Residents in the Albany area now have additional motivation for utilizing insect repellent.

A 53-year-old Dougherty County man is now recovering from what health officials say is the Southwest Public Health District's first West Nile Virus case of the season.

"He has been discharged from the hospital and is recovering," said Dr. Jacqueline Grant, the district's director.

Georgia's first case was confirmed in a Clayton County man two months ago by the Georgia Department of Community Health/Division of Public Health Acute Disease Epidemiology Section. He was expected to recover when the case was initially reported.

The Dougherty case, the state's second this year, was reported to public health officials last week.

"We're in mosquito season. This is the time of year we would expect to see it," said District Epidemiologist Jacqueline Jenkins.

The 2010 West Nile Virus season's onset came to Georgia roughly two months earlier than expected. Activity typically peaks in the Southwest Georgia region during the month of August.

In 2006, a Dougherty County man became the state's sole West Nile Virus fatality. No 2009 cases were reported in Southwest Georgia.

The virus is mosquito-borne and has no vaccine. Of the 722 human cases confirmed nationwide last year, 33 fatalities occurred. Georgia reported four cases, none fatal, within that timeframe.

Roughly 80 percent of those infected show no symptoms. Up to 20 percent of people may experience fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a rash.

"Those at risk of experiencing complications and severe illness from West Nile infection include older adults, people who have received an organ transplant, young children and people with a compromised immune system," Grant said.

One out of 150 people infected develop serious symptoms. There is no specific treatment for the virus. People with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment.

"The best method of prevention is to avoid getting bitten," Grant said.

In order to reduce the risk of exposure, health officials recommend avoiding outdoor activity at dawn and dusk; covering exposed skin when outside; using insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin; draining standing water; and repairing screens.

Increased rainfall has a tendency to spike mosquito populations, which makes disposing of standing water extremely important, health experts say.

"We want folks to be sure people don't have anything that can breed mosquitos," Jenkins said. "It doesn't take much water to breed mosquitoes."