After the storm, avoid West Nile Virus

Hurricane Irma caused much damage throughout the Southeast and Georgia. As Georgians begin to clean up and recover from the storm, one often overlooked problem will begin to emerge: mosquitoes. Standing water left after rain is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and the diseases they carry like West Nile Virus.    

“Symptoms of West Nile Virus vary from none to death,” said Department of Public Health Entomologist Rosmarie Kelly, Ph.D. “The most common way to prevent a mosquito-borne disease is to not get bitten by a mosquito.”  

It is important to Tip ‘n Toss standing water as soon as possible after rain to keep mosquitoes from breeding. Before going outside, put on EPA-registered repellant.

“Clean up your yard, and clean up your neighborhood,” advises Kelly. “Most mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus lay their eggs in containers like old tires.”

During Georgia’s July-to-September mosquito season, there were almost 20 cases of West Nile Virus in Georgia. If contracted, West Nile Virus may cause flu-like symptoms and in some instances, paralysis or even death. Older individuals are the most likely to contract West Nile Virus, as their immune systems are often weaker.

“Wear EPA-registered repellant when you’re outside during mosquito season, and follow the instructions on the label when you put it on,” said Kelly. “EPA-registered repellants have been tested for safety factors, for how you should use them and for whether or not they work. They are DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus.”

Eighty percent of those who contract West Nile Virus will have no symptoms. Those that do may experience:

  • flu-like symptoms
  • fever
  • partial paralysis
  • meningitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • encephalitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord)
  • a coma
  • death   

“If the mosquitoes are bad, stay indoors,” said Kelly. “Wear light-weight protective clothing when outdoors.”

If you believe you have West Nile Virus, contact your healthcare provider. Less than one percent of cases have severe symptoms.