ALBANY — Two residents of Dougherty County have been diagnosed with West Nile Virus infections, officials with the Southwest Public Health District said Wednesday.
Officials said the cases are the first examples of the mosquito-borne infection in the district so far this season, prompting public health officials to remind area residents to take precautions against being bitten by the pests that carry the potentially dangerous disease.
One patient, an older adult, was hospitalized, but is recovering, according to health officials. The other, a young adult, was free of symptoms, which is a common scenario.
Recent rains have boosted mosquito activity, and more mosquito activity increases the likelihood of mosquito bites.
“The best protection against West Nile Virus is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes,” Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Charles Ruis said.
Ruis offered tips for protection against mosquitoes:
— Apply insect repellent. DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective repellents recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
— When possible, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks, particularly at dawn and dusk and in mosquito-prone areas;
— Eliminate standing water in gutters, planters, toys, wheelbarrows and old tires. A mosquito needs only a few drops of water in order to breed and lay eggs;
— Trim tall grass, weeds and vines to discourage mosquitoes;
— Ensure window and door screens fit tightly to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
Ruis added that 80 percent of the people infected with West Nile Virus experience no symptoms.
“About 20 percent of infected people will experience symptoms such as headache, fever, fatigue, joint pain and weakness,” he said. “The majority of those will make a complete recovery within a few days.”
He added that about 1 percent of people infected with West Nile Virus will develop severe symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches and mental status changes.
“Uncommonly, the outcome is death,” Ruis said.
West Nile Virus cannot be transmitted from person to person. Those most at risk of severe illness from West Nile Virus include individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and older adults.
“Further, humans are considered dead-end hosts where West Nile is concerned,” Ruis said. “This means that even a mosquito cannot bite an infected human and transmit the virus to another human, in contrast to the Zika virus.”
So far this season, one person has died in Georgia from the infection. Georgia typically sees six to 10 cases per year. August is typically peak time for West Nile Virus infections in the state.
For more information about West Nile Virus, visit www.cdc.gov or contact a county health department.