UPDATE: 4 confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in Ch. 3 viewing area
Public health officials have confirmed two cases of West Nile virus (WNV), including one West Nile-related death, in Northwest Georgia and are urging the public to take precautions to prevent the mosquito-borne disease.
UPDATE: Mosquito season is in full swing and with it comes a warning.
There are now four confirmed cases of people with the West Nile Virus in the Channel 3 viewing area.
The mosquito-borne virus claimed the life of a north Georgia man this week.
Brad Ledford knows a lot about mosquitoes and the conditions they live in.
As the owner of Mosquito Squad in Chattanooga, he's also familiar with some of the diseases they can carry, like the West Nile Virus.
"It takes a couple of months from when you get it to when you start seeing the symptoms and it's usually this time of year when you start seeing West Nile," Ledford said.
Health officials said most people become infected with the virus by the bite of an infected mosquito.
There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat the disease.
According to health officials, there have been four confirmed cases of West Nile in southeast Tennessee and north Georgia this year. They include McMinn, Hamilton and Catoosa counties.
Family members said Tommy Helms, 83, of Ringgold, died this week after a two week battle with the mosquito-borne virus.
They best thing you can do is be proactive around your property.
Especially after recent rain in the Tennessee Valley, Ledford said it only takes a couple days for a mosquito to breed.
"Whenever you have water, and rain plus heat you're going to have insects. Especially mosquitoes," he added.
The Hamilton County Health Department does not spray for mosquitoes, but companies like Ledford's do.
He said spraying around homes can be a more targeted approach to fighting mosquitoes.
"We'll follow a fence line or a tree line or if you live into the woods, then we'll get all into the woods as well," he said.
Wearing protective clothing and using bug spray are the best ways health officials say you can stay protected too.
Click HERE for West Nile Virus symptoms.
Channel 3 Meteorologist Nick Austin said mosquito season typically ends when we experience the season's first hard freeze which is around the beginning of November.
For more information about the services Mosquito Squad offer, call 423-386-5943 or click HERE.
Two cases of the West Nile Virus (WNV) have been confirmed in Northwest Georgia.
A spokesperson with the Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest District tells Channel 3, one elderly person died in Catoosa County; another is recovering in Floyd County. They say the elderly person came in contact with a "Southern House Mosquito," which commonly found in the Southern parts of the United States.
The last WNV death reported in Catoosa County was in 2012.
"I don't think we have to panic. It's just mostly...be cautious," said Dr. Paul Cornea, with CHI Memorial Infectious Disease Associates.
According to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, 10 WNV cases have been reported in Tennessee statewide, this year. Two have been reported in Hamilton County. We're told the department has no way of knowing is the reported cases resulted in death.
Dr. Cornea says the elderly and people with weak immune symptoms are most vulnerable to the virus.
"Most people don't even know they have it because the symptoms are so non-specific like any other kind of virus infection. You might have some headaches, bodyaches. You might have fatigue; there's nothing really specific for it."
Health department officials say WNV is common during the summer and fall months, but Dr. Cornea says the chances of you catching a severe case is unlikely. He says an infected person transmitting the virus to others is also rare.
"You wouldn't catch it just by normal household interactions. It would have to be something that involves a blood transmission."
But taking precautions are important.
Dr. Cornea suggests using bug spray, wearing protective clothing, and getting rid of standing water. Keeping track of the time of day will also make a difference.
"Try to avoid the time when mosquitoes bite more frequently; in the morning and at dusk."
PREVIOUS STORY: Public health officials have confirmed two cases of West Nile virus (WNV), including one West Nile-related death, in Northwest Georgia and are urging the public to take precautions to prevent the mosquito-borne disease.
“Protecting yourself from mosquito bites, eliminating mosquito breeding grounds, and using larvicides to kill mosquito larva before they can grow into biting adults are the best ways to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile,” says Dr. Unini Odama, health director for the ten-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District.
One nonfatal case is in Floyd County. A second, unfortunate fatal case is in Catoosa County. In Georgia, there have been at least 20 WNV cases so far this year with at least three West Nile-related deaths. This compares with seven WNV cases and no deaths reported in the state in 2016. All victims were elderly and had underlying conditions that contributed to their deaths.
“West Nile virus may be found and is a risk throughout Georgia and the other lower 48 states,” Odama emphasizes. “People should always take precautions to avoid mosquito bites wherever they reside or travel.”
WNV cases occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall, typically until the first hard freeze. July, August, and September are Georgia’s months of highest risk for WNV transmission.
Most people get infected with WNV 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 of WNV include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that usually develop three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, or those with other underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease.
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 WNV 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.
- Click here for more information on West Nile virus.
- Information on EPA-registered insect repellants may be found here.