By: WCTV Eyewitness News
Updated - July 25, 2018
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Residents in South Georgia are being warned to take extra precautions to protect themselves against mosquitoes after 24 mosquito samples in Lowndes County tested positive for West Nile Virus.
The Georgia Department of Public Health's South Health District originally reported in late June that West Nile Virus had been found in some samples. The test results were revealed through a partnership with the Mosquito Surveillance Program.
"Mosquito-borne illnesses are spread through the bite of an infected mosquito," states William Grow, MD, FACP, district health director. "The more time someone is outdoors, the more time the person is at risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito. That is why we encourage everyone to take all precautions against mosquito bites."
The health department is urging residents to take the following precautions:
“While most people infected with West Nile Virus show no symptoms of the illness and pass it on their own, even healthy people have become severely ill for weeks when infected,” says Dr. Grow. “EEE (Eastern equine encephalitis) is extremely rare in humans; however, is extremely concerning because it involves inflammation of the brain.”
Health officials say symptoms of West Nile Virus include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that usually develop 2 to 14 days after being infected. The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, or those with other underlying conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease.
GDPH says there is no vaccine for humans for these mosquito-borne diseases, nor is there a specific treatment. People with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment. Health officials say the best protection is to avoid being bitten.
Lowndes County officials say they are currently following local spraying protocols. The Public Works Department is offering free larvicide to residents in the unincorporated area, which can help reduce mosquito populations in areas where standing water cannot be eliminated through traditional drainage methods. For more information, contact Lowndes County Public Works at 229-671-2700.
Officials with the City of Valdosta say they are using every resource available to municipalities to protect citizens from mosquito-borne diseases through a Public Works-operated spraying and larvicide program, a joint surveillance program with Valdosta State University and Lowndes County, and through public education.
The city operates a spraying program on a four-day cycle throughout the City with spraying five days a week, if needed, at dusk. Spraying typically begins in early April. In addition to the City’s normal spraying program, when an infected mosquito, human or animal is found, the City activates its response plan, calling for immediate, intensive and continued spraying in the areas where the viruses have been positively identified.
The City’s Public Works Department treats nearly two dozen bodies of stagnant water on public property each month utilizing Larvicide tablets. These tablets are also available for free to city residents who maintain their own privately-owned bodies of stagnant water. Citizens with questions about mosquito safety may call the Public Works Department at 229-259-3597.
For more information about mosquito-borne diseases, call your local health department or visit www.cdc.gov.