Of the 693 confirmed cases in the country this year, nearly half, 336, have been in Texas with the next closest state, Mississippi, reporting only 59 cases. Twenty-six deaths have been blamed on West Nile Virus this year with 14 of those occurring in Texas.
The state of Georgia has had no deaths so far this year as a result of West Nile Virus, but has seen nine cases, none of which were in northwest Georgia. Northwest Georgia Public Health Public Information Officer Logan Boss briefly explained the virus strain, originally carried by birds, can lead to minor flu-like symptoms or severe medical complications including disorientation, coma, paralysis and even death.
“West Nile is a disease of birds. It’s everywhere. It first surfaced in New York in 1999 and it is now in every state. It is certainly endemic to the state of Georgia, including northwest Georgia and Bartow County,” said Boss. “West Nile season comes around every year, typically starts in early summer and peaks in Georgia in about September until we have the first hard freeze. We’re just now getting into our peak season and the main culprit of West Nile in Georgia is the old, Southern House Mosquito, which tends to breed more in pools of stagnant water and water in pipes, that sort of thing. Some mosquitos will breed anywhere, but the type that carrys West Nile in our area typically breeds in stagnant water.”
Bartow County in recent years has ceased the practice of spraying for mosquitoes, but the city of Cartersville continues their efforts each year. Following similar routes to that of garbage collection, the spray truck begins regular spraying in late spring with a heavy emphasis in late summer and early fall when West Nile season peaks.
“We have low-lying areas, like Dellinger Park, where the public visits every day that we have to cover regularly, but we will keep spraying as long as we have warmer weather,” said Cartersville Public Works
Director Bobby Elliot.
Aerial spraying for mosquitoes, however, is just one method for reducing mosquito populations and the Cartersville Public Works webpage lists it as the most expensive and least effective method for controlling West Nile Virus.
In light of record numbers of cases in other states, Boss urges residents to take precautions to protect themselves.
“We wish we knew more about what is happening in Texas. That is an unusual situation, but rather than speculate on the causes of that, I think it is more important to remind people that the best way to protect themselves from West Nile Virus is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito. The two primary ways to do that is No. 1 personal protection and No. 2 source reduction,” Boss said. “People need to use insect repellent, preferably DEET containing insect repellant. If they go outdoors, you need to avoid going out at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. People need to wear long-sleeved, long-legged clothing and keep their screens repaired — and do all these things to personally protect themselves.
“The other thing is that people need to practice source reduction. People really need to be conscious of that and do that a couple of times a week. Most mosquitoes don’t travel very far from where they’re bread. So if you can eliminate breeding sources close to your home, you can do a pretty good job of reducing if not eliminating mosquito populations nearby.”
Mosquitoes can reproduce in any area of stagnant water, including containers as small as a bottle cap. To reduce mosquito populations, Boss recommends draining any area where water may collect, such as outdoor pots, wheelbarrows, cans and empty swimming pools.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/westnile.