DeKalb County’s West Nile virus season has arrived two weeks earlier than expected. According to the DeKalb County Board of Health, a routine collection of mosquitoes has tested positive for the virus. The early test result may indicate that this will be a busy season, so it is especially important to know how to avoid getting the virus.
West Nile virus is spread by infected mosquitoes and can cause serious, life-altering and even fatal disease. Although infected people over age 50 have the highest risk for serious illness, individuals of all ages can become ill. Some develop a less severe illness called West Nile fever. This mild illness usually goes away and does not require medical treatment. Fortunately, most people who are infected with the virus do not have any ill effects.
Last year, 1,021 human cases of West Nile virus were confirmed nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five cases were confirmed in DeKalb County.
There is no specific vaccine or treatment for West Nile virus. Those with severe cases are hospitalized and receive supportive care such as intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment.
“I am encouraging residents to educate themselves about West Nile virus prevention and to take precautions to protect themselves,” said S. Elizabeth Ford, M.D., M.B.A., district health director of the DeKalb County Board of Health. “The most effective actions against the virus are to wear mosquito repellent and to eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed.”
Effective repellents for use on skin and clothing contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. Also, clothing can be sprayed with permethrin. For quick trips outside, a long-sleeved shirt can be treated with permethrin and hung by the door. It is then easy to slip on when going outside. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills mosquitoes and ticks. It even retains this effect after washing. All repellents should be applied according to label instructions.
Using repellents on children requires special attention. Repellent should be kept out of the reach of children. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months old. Oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under three years old. Mosquito netting can be used effectively over infant carriers and strollers. An adult should apply repellent to their own hands then rub them on the child. An adult should not apply repellent to a child’s hand nor allow a child to apply their own repellent.
Mosquitoes need standing water to breed. By simply eliminating the stagnant water around your home, you will have an enormous impact on the mosquito population. The Board of Health recommends a number of ways to reduce mosquito breeding in your yard:
- Dump standing water from plant pots, toys, pool and hot tub covers, wheelbarrows, boats and canoes.
- When not in use, store wading pools and other items where they will not collect water.
- Clean gutters and downspouts so they drain properly.
- Dispose of old tires, cans and other containers that may collect water.
- Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes every three or four days.
- Keep drains and ditches clean of trash and weeds so water will drain properly.
- Trim tall grass, weeds and vines since mosquitoes rest in these during the hot daylight hours.
The DeKalb County Board of Health’s Division of Environmental Health monitors for West Nile virus through mosquito sampling. Since the virus can kill birds, they also analyze reports of dead birds. In addition, the division works with residents to reduce mosquito populations.
For help in finding mosquito breeding sites, to report a dead bird or for more information on West Nile virus, visit www.dekalbhealth.net or call (404) 508-7900.