ALBANY, Ga. - Four more human cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in Southwest Health District this week, bringing the season’s total to five and prompting public health officials to remind residents to take precautions against mosquito bites.
The first case was that of a man in his 60s from Dougherty County. Of the new cases, one patient is from Lee County while the other three are from Dougherty County.
The group of new patients consist of men and women from 30-80 years of age. It is not immediately clear what their conditions are.
“August is peak season for West Nile virus,” said Southwest Health District Epidemiologist Jacqueline Jenkins in a news release. “We know the virus is circulating in mosquitoes in our area, so we expect to see cases, especially at this time of year. However, having four cases confirmed in one week is unusual, so we really want people to take steps to avoid getting bitten.”
Around 80 percent of those infected with West Nile show no symptoms; while up to 20 percent have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a rash.
The older a person is, the more likely they are to get severely ill if infected. People who have received an organ transplant are also at higher risk for severe disease.
Young children and people with compromised immune systems are also at increased risk. One out of roughly 150 infected with West Nile virus develops serious symptoms.
There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. People with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care, such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment.
Health officials say the best protection is to avoid getting bitten. Ways to reduce the risk of being bitten include:
Avoiding outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active, at dawn and dusk;
Covering exposed skin if you must be outside;
Using insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET, oil of lemon, eucalyptus or picaridin;
Draining any standing water and repairing door screens.
Last year, 712 human cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in the United States, resulting in 43 deaths. As of Tuesday — which does not take into account the four new cases — 104 cases have been confirmed and probable human cases identified in 24 states, information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
The same data also reflect two human cases in the metro Atlanta area