West Nile reported in Miller County

COLQUITT, Ga. -- The West Nile activity in Southwest Georgia continues to be a concern, with a suspected human case -- as well as a confirmed case in a horse -- reported in Miller County, public health officials say.

Last year, there were four human cases of West Nile virus reported in the Southwest Public Health District -- none of which were associated with fatalities. The breakout this year has resulted in -- aside from the most recent human case -- seven cases in Dougherty County, one in Lee County, one in Worth County, one in Mitchell County and one in Early County.

There have been three fatalities this year in connection to the West Nile activity reported in Southwest Georgia. Two were in Dougherty, while the third was in Early.

In addition to the horse in Miller County, there is another horse in Worth County that has been confirmed to have West Nile. There has also been a horse in Thomas County confirmed to have Eastern Equine Encephalitis, public health officials say.

"With so many cases covering such a broad area, who a patient is and where they reside is of less concern than the fact that this is a widespread problem. Mosquitoes carrying the infection don't pay attention to city limits or county lines," said Dr. Jacqueline Grant, the district's director, in a news release.

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. Around 80 percent of those infected with West Nile show no symptoms. Up to 20 percent have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a rash.

One out of roughly 150 infected with West Nile virus develop serious symptoms such as swelling of the brain, coma or death, public health officials say.

The older a person is, the more likely he or she is 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 at increased risk, as are pregnant women, public health officials say.

Since there is no vaccine, the best protection is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. 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 outdoor activity is necessary;
  • Using insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin;
  • Draining standing water so mosquitoes are unable to breed;
  • Repairing window and door screens so mosquitoes are unable to get indoors.

Data current as of Aug. 28 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that there have been 1,590 cases of West Nile reported in the United States this year. At the same time, there had been 65 deaths reported in connection to the disease.

In all, Georgia has had 21 reported cases this year, data from the CDC show.