Polk resident dies from West Nile virus
Officials are urging precautions against mosquito bites.
Local health officials announced last week that an individual from Polk County was the victim of West Nile virus, but were unable to provide much more details beyond that following a press release from the Northwest Division of the state’s Public Health department.
Their release only stated that an unnamed individual died, and in a follow-up interview with spokesperson Logan Boss, he added that the individual was hospitalized and test results confirmed.
Additionally, their release stated the victim was elderly and that underlying health conditions were involved.
Polk County Coroner Tony Brazier said a further press release about the death was forthcoming but it was not yet ready at press time over the weekend.
The announcement marked the sixth confirmed death due to West Nile virus this year in Georgia.
Officials are asking the public to take precautions in ensuring they don’t potentially become victims of West Nile Virus themselves, though many might have it and never know.
“Even though we’re having cooler weather, it’s still mosquito season until our first hard freeze,” said Dr. Unini Odama, health director for the 10- county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District. “People must be aware that West Nile is active throughout Georgia and must protect themselves and their loved ones from mosquito bites.”
The fatality in Polk is the second West Nile Virus death in the ten-county Northwest Health District in 2017. The first was in August in Catoosa County. There have been at least 38 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne disease in the state this year.
Three have been in Northwest Georgia — one each in Catoosa, Floyd and Polk counties.
“We’ve had just three confirmed WNV (West Nile Virus) cases in Northwest Georgia this year,” Odama said, “but sadly two have resulted in death. The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those with other underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in all three cases.”
Most people get infected with West Nile virus by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans and other animals.
There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV.
Symptoms include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that usually develops three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not have symptoms.
About one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.
Anyone with questions about West Nile Virus should speak to their healthcare provider or call their local county health department’s environmental health office. If you think you or a family member might have WNV, consult a healthcare provider for evaluation and diagnosis.
The single most effective way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites:
Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.
Wear long sleeves and pants from dusk through dawn when many mosquitoes are most active.
Install or repair screens on windows and doors. If you have it, use your air conditioning.
Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home. Practice Tip n’ Toss. Empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths.
Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.
According to Kathy Couey-Miller, environmental health manager at the Polk County Health Department, “the health department has a limited supply of insect repellent and mosquito dunks or larvicide which can be used to kill mosquito larvae before they mature into biting adults. These are available free to the public while supply lasts.”
The Public Health Northwest Division contributed to this article with their release on Oct. 17.
Dr. Unini Odama, Northwest District public health director