Health Dept. asks public to be on guard against West Nile Virus

Source: CDC
Source: CDC

COLUMBUS, GA – The West Central Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is calling on area residents to guard against exposure to mosquitoes.  DPH has identified one confirmed case and one probable case of the West Nile Virus (WNV) in the state and more than 100 mosquito sampling batches have tested positive for the virus that can lead to brain or spinal cord swelling, even death.

On July 6, 2011 a 52 year old Chatham County female became ill and tested positive for WNV. Four days later, an 85 year old Glynn County man also became ill. Samples associated with his case are now undergoing testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with the Georgia Public Health Lab (GPHL).

About 25 West Nile Virus positive mosquito pools have been identified in the metro Atlanta area and about 90 in coastal Georgia.  This means these areas are at high risk.

We know the West Nile Virus has been prevalent within the West Central Health District, as evidenced by tested mosquitoes; as well as human cases including the death of one of our residents' in 2009.   "Reports in Georgia and nationwide indicate an increase in WNV this year and many of the humans cases appear to be having more serious central nervous system involvement than in past years,"  said Beverley Townsend, M.D., West Central Health District Health Director.

Dr. Townsend urges residents to prevent water from standing in containers or pools and to take other precautions:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when outdoors, especially at dawn and dusk to reduce the amount of exposed skin.

  • Consider using insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, or PMD.  DEET offers protection against mosquito bites up to 5 hours depending on how much DEET is in the product. Picaridin also provides relief from mosquito bites. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label. 

  • Set up outdoor fans to keep mosquitoes from flying near you.

Symptoms of WNV include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that usually develop three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, or those with other underlying conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease.

Of those who become infected with WNV, most will fight off the virus without any symptoms or will develop less severe West Nile fever. But about one in 150 people bitten by infected mosquitoes will develop encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord).

Approximately 10 percent of people with a severe form of WNV infection die from their illness, and others suffer from long-term nervous system problems.

Mosquitoes need water to breed. Removing areas of standing water can eliminate breeding grounds and reduce the number of mosquitoes. The following precautionary measures are recommended to reduce exposure to mosquitoes and risk of WNV:

  • Properly dispose of old tires. Regularly empty any metal cans, ceramic flowerpots, bottles, jars, buckets, and other water-holding containers on your property.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools, outdoor toys and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Keep swimming pools clean and properly chlorinated. Remove standing water from pool covers.  Fill in swimming pools that are not being properly maintained or used.
  • Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets.
  • Keep gutters cleared and sloped to the downspout.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors.
  • Make sure windows and screens are in good condition. Repair any holes in screens.
  • Purchase and use Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Torpedoes (larvicides used to kill mosquito larvae) to control mosquitoes in areas with standing water and in containers that cannot be dumped.

People with questions about WNV should call the Columbus Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Department, 706-321-6170, or visit:

More information on WNV can be found at the CDC's site:

Further information on repellents is also available from the CDC:

The Department's surveillance data on the West Nile Virus is available on O.A.S.I.S. at