Polk res­i­dent dies from West Nile virus

Of­fi­cials are urg­ing pre­cau­tions against mos­quito bites.

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - From staff re­ports

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

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