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Intense West Nile Outbreak Hits the South

The DeKalb County Board of Health advises taking preventive measures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta announced Wednesday that three times the usual number of West Nile cases for this time of year have been reported, calling it ‘‘one of the largest’’ outbreaks since the virus appeared in the U.S. in 1999.

The CDC says that 42 of the 50 states, including Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, have reported cases of West Nile virus and that 241 people have been diagnosed. Late August and September are peak times for mosquito-borne illnesses.

According to the DeKalb County Board of Health, 17 of 51 mosquito collections last month tested positive for West Nile virus. 

West Nile virus is spread by infected mosquitoes and can cause serious, life-altering and even fatal disease. Although people over age 50 have the highest risk for serious illness when infected with the virus, individuals of all ages can become ill.

Some people 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, 712 cases were confirmed nationwide, according to the CDC. Fewer than five cases were confirmed in DeKalb County.

“I am encouraging residents to educate themselves about West Nile virus prevention and to take precautions to protect themselves,” said Elizabeth Ford, district health director of the DeKalb County Board of Health. “The most effective actions against the virus are to wear mosquito repellent and to reduce standing water where mosquitoes breed.”

Other suggested methods of prevention:

  • Drain standing water from bird baths, kiddie pools and plant pots on a weekly basis
  • Clear gutters and drains to prevent the accumulation of stagnant water
  • Avoid working or playing outdoors at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active
  • When you are outdoors, wear insect repellant with DEET as an active product
  • Make sure all windows and doors in your home are closed tightly and that screens are well-sealed to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside

For more information, visit the CDC’s website.

Thanks to the DeKalb County Board of Health and Massey Services for helpful tips.

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