Southwest Public Health warns against West Nile season

August is peak season for West Nile Virus cases, and while no cases of West Nile have been reported in Southwest Health District yet this season, public health officials say they want to keep it that way.

"West Nile virus is a potentially dangerous mosquito-borne illness for which we have no vaccine," says Jackie Jenkins, the director of epidemiology and surveillance for Southwest Health District. "The best protection is to avoid getting bitten."

Nearly 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, says Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

"Those at risk of experiencing complications and severe illness from a West Nile infection include older adults, people who have received an organ transplant, young children and people with a compromised immune system," Grant says. "One out of roughly 150 infected with West Nile virus develop serious symptoms."

There is no specific treatment available for West Nile virus. According to Grant, people with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment.

Although Southwest Health District was spared in recent years, the infection is capable of claiming lives, she says. In 2006, a Dougherty County man was the state's only West Nile Virus fatality.

To reduce the risk of being bitten, Jenkins suggests:
⢠Avoiding outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active â" 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 standing water
⢠Repairing screens

For more information about West Nile virus, go online to the Southwest Georgia Public Health website. Additional information is available at the CDC website.