The Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed via press release that there is one positive case of West Nile Virus in a horse found in Ben Hill County.
Public officials say this is the third case of a mosquito-borne illness in a horse in South Health District this year.
Recent West Nile cases have public health officials warning residents to protect themselves and their pets.
As cooler weather hits southwest Georgia, officials say we're not in the clear for mosquitoes and even worse the West Nile virus that some of them carry.
"With our fluctuating weather, you still need to be concerned. In fact right now we have ten positive cases of West Nile in Dougherty County and two of those are deaths," says Jackie Jenkins, Epidemiologist for the Southwest Georgia Public Health Department.
Two human cases have been confirmed this week and although it's rare for most animals to contract the virus, it's a different story for horses.
"Our main concern with West Nile and animals are horses but there is a vaccine for horses that we encourage all horse owners to get," says Jackie Jenkins.
While protecting your pets, healthcare workers stress protecting yourself.
"Make sure when it warms up and you're going out that you have on your protection," says Chucky Mathis, Assistant Supervisor for Dougherty County Public Works.
People are urged to take the following precautions:
- Use insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, or PMD. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
- Any containers that can collect water should be discarded or dumped daily.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when outdoors, especially at dawn and dusk to reduce the amount of exposed skin, as weather permits.
- Avoid being outdoors from dusk to dawn, peak mosquito biting times, if possible.
- Set up outdoor fans to keep mosquitoes from flying near you.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that usually develop three to fourteen days after being infected according to the release. The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, or those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease.
Officials say there is is no vaccine for the illness nor is there a specific treatment in human patients.
People with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment. The best protection is to avoid being bitten.