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Mosquito larvicide, repellent donated to health departments

ALBANY, Ga. -- A limited supply of free larvicide briquettes and insect repellent to help combat mosquitoes is available from environmental health specialists at the 14 county health departments within the Southwest Public Health District, officials with the district say.

A grant from The Friends of Southwest Georgia Public Health, a non-profit group that supports public health programs and services in the health district, funded the purchase of the items.

The grant was worth $2,000 overall, allowing $1,000 for the supply of each item. In addition to making them available at the health departments, there will also be environmental health specialists carrying the items in their vehicles to distribute to those in the community they spot who might be at risk, including those with torn screen doors or standing water in their yards.

"(Friends of Southwest Georgia Public Health) had a little money available, and this is what they chose to use it for," said Carolyn Maschke, public information officer for the health district. "The non-profit felt this was a good way to reach out to those at risk."

This donation comes in the midst of what has been referred to as the most active West Nile season on record for the United States. Officials say that this season, there have been 15 confirmed human cases in the district, including three West Nile virus-related deaths.

There have also been confirmed cases in horses in the area.

The supplies are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Those interested in obtaining these items should call their respective county health departments, Maschke said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was showing more than 3,500 human cases of West Nile reported this year in the U.S. as of Tuesday. Forty-three of those cases are from Georgia.

There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus, nor is there a vaccine. People with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care, such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment.

The best protection, officials say, 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 at dusk; covering exposed skin if outside activity is necessary; using insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin; repairing window and door screens; and draining standing water.

People who have livestock are encouraged to call their health department and ask for an environmental health specialist to stop by and make recommendations on how to help protect their animals from mosquitoes, public health officials say.

The larvicide dunks can be used in troughs, vats or decorative water containers that can't be emptied to help reduce mosquito breeding areas. The repellent is for human use.

Friends of Southwest Georgia Public Health, Inc., is the non-profit, all-volunteer sister organization of the health district. The organization has no paid employees, and therefore no administrative costs.

Friends of Southwest Georgia Public Health, Inc. accepts donations via cash, checks, credit card or Paypal online donations. To contribute, go to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org, place the cursor on "Home" on the pull-down menu, select "Friends of SWGA Public Health" and click on the payment of choice.

Donations can also be mailed to: Friends of Southwest Georgia Public Health, Inc., c/o Carol Williams, Southwest Health District, 1109 N. Jackson St., Albany, GA, 31701.