ATLANTA — Surveillance data gathered by the Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health confirms horses in Bibb and Lowndes counties have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and two pools of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus have been found in Fulton County.
These viruses are very different from one another but are spread in the same way, through the bite of an infected mosquito. Infection by one of these viruses can be severe, causing symptoms such as encephalitis or death. More common symptoms include fever, muscle pain and headaches. There are no human vaccines to offer protection from infection with these viruses, but there are actions people can take to minimize their risk of being infected by a mosquito-borne virus.
“Even though mosquito-borne viruses often cause mild symptoms, serious cases can develop, therefore we recommend that Georgia residents take personal protective measures to avoid mosquito bites, especially in areas where theses viruses have been identified,” said Dr. Stuart Brown, director of the Division of Public Health.
Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) is a virus that often causes inflammation or swelling of the brain. The EEE virus commonly circulates between birds and mosquitoes in swampy areas. Most people who are bitten by a mosquito carrying the EEE virus will not become sick.
However, EEE is one of the most serious types of viral encephalitis. Death occurs in approximately 30 percent of persons who develop encephalitis.
In 2006 there was one fatal confirmed case of EEE human infection in Georgia. In 2005 the only confirmed case of EEE human infection in Georgia survived.
West Nile virus usually infects birds, but it can be spread to humans by mosquitoes that feed on infected birds and then bite humans. Less than one percent of people infected with WNV develop serious illness such as encephalitis or paralysis. People who have chronic medical conditions are at greater risk of developing severe illness if infected with WNV.
In 2006 there were nine confirmed WNV cases of human infection in Georgia, including one death. In 2005 there were 24 cases of WNV human infection, including two deaths.
The most common mosquito-borne viruses that circulate in Georgia every year include Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile and La Crosses viruses. Mosquito-borne viruses are most active late spring through early fall in Georgia. Increased numbers of human cases are normally detected in August.
Three simple steps to prevent mosquito bites
Dawn and dusk are the times of day that mosquitoes are most active, avoid outdoor activity at these times. Dress appropriately when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are most active.
Use insect repellant with an EPA-approved active ingredient such as DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Always follow the directions on the package for safest and most effective use.
Areas with standing water are locations where mosquitoes will lay eggs.
Get rid of or treat standing water with larvicides.
Dump out containers such as recycling bins, empty flower pots and other containers that may collect water.
Change water in birdbaths or small wading pools at least once a week.
For more information about West Nile Virus visit http://health.state.ga.us/epi/vbd/mosquito.asp.