Cowetans urged to protect themselves from mosquito bites

Photo by James Gathany, CDC

Coweta residents are urged to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes to make sure they do not contract West Nile Virus.

District 4 Public Health, which includes Coweta County, has not had any human cases of West Nile virus so far this year.

With two positive cases last year, however, Cowetans and others in D4PH are urged to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

“People can reduce the number of mosquitoes around their homes and yards by getting rid of standing water,” said Duane Fields, D4PH director of environmental health. “Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that are known to carry West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.”

People should tip and toss water from all containers that can collect water – flower pots, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths – anything that holds water and gives mosquitoes a place to thrive. Mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus look for stagnant water to breed in, so area residents should be sure gutters and eaves are clear of leaves and debris.

The most effective way to protect against WNV infection and all mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika, is to prevent mosquito bites. Fields encouraged observing the “Five D’s of Prevention” during outdoor activities:

•Dusk/Dawn – Mosquitoes carrying WNV usually bite at dusk and dawn, so avoid or limit outdoor activity at these times.

•Dress – Wear loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.

•DEET – Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites.

•Drain – Empty any containers holding standing water because they are excellent breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.

•Doors – Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly. Fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.

Symptoms of WNV include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. Symptoms usually develop three to 15 days after a person is 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.

Anyone with questions about WNV or Zika should speak to their health care provider or call their local county health department, environmental health office.

Proactive efforts are made to identify geographical areas where mosquitoes could carry West Nile Virus. In District 4, a vector surveillance coordinator along with county environmental health specialists trap mosquitoes for the purpose of identifying the species. 

Mosquito surveillance is a valuable tool for determining the changes in the geographic distribution and abundance of mosquito species. The mosquitoes of most importance to public health in Georgia are Culex quinquefasciatus, the Southern House mosquito, and Aedes albopictus, the Asian Tiger mosquito.

The Southern House mosquito is the primary vector for WNV, while the Asian Tiger mosquito is a known vector of Zika and has also been found to carry WNV.

District 4 Public Health serves people in Coweta, Butts, Carroll, Fayette, Heard, Henry, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup and Upson counties.