While metro Atlanta eagerly awaits a break in the rain, it is important to remember to dump standing water and use mosquito repellent. The West Nile virus season has begun. According to the DeKalb County Board of Health, a routine collection of mosquitoes has tested positive for the virus. This is the first report of positive mosquitoes in metro Atlanta this year.
West Nile virus is spread by infected mosquitoes. It can cause serious, life-altering and even fatal disease. Although infected people over age 50 are at highest risk for serious illness, individuals of all ages can become ill. Some people develop a less severe illness called West Nile fever. This mild illness usually does not require medical treatment and goes away. Fortunately, most people who are infected with the virus do not have any ill effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5,674 human cases of West Nile virus were confirmed nationwide last year. This is the highest number reported since 2003. Since there is no vaccine or treatment for West Nile virus, prevention is the key. “I am encouraging residents to learn about prevention and to protect themselves,” said S. Elizabeth Ford, M.D., M.B.A, district health director of the DeKalb County Board of Health.
The Board of Health recommends a number of ways to reduce mosquito breeding. You can eliminate the places mosquitoes reproduce by:
- Dumping standing water. Be sure to check plant pots, toys, and tarps.
- Storing wading pools so they will not collect water.
- Disposing of old tires, cans and other containers.
- Changing the water in birdbaths and pet dishes every three to four days.
- Cleaning gutters and downspouts.
- Keeping drains and ditches clean of trash and weeds.
- Raking or shredding magnolia leaves.
- Trimming tall grass, weeds and vines.
Effective repellents for use on skin and clothing contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. Spray clothing with permethrin, which remains effective after repeated washing. Apply repellents according to label instructions. Using repellents on children requires special attention. Do not use DEET products on infants under two months old. Do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus products on children under three years old. An adult should apply repellent to their hands then rub them on the child. An
adult should not apply repellent to a child’s hands nor allow a child to apply repellent. Keep repellent out of the reach of children. Use mosquito netting over infant carriers and strollers. The Board of Health’s Division of Environmental Health monitors for West Nile virus through mosquito sampling. Since the virus can kill birds, the division also analyzes reports of dead birds. In addition, the staff works with residents and businesses to reduce mosquito populations.