Georgians getting ready to celebrate the Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 Labor Day weekend outdoors are being urged to protect themselves against mosquito bites in the wake of one death and seven confirmed cases of West Nile virus, and one death from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
The Georgia Department of Public Health, which announced the confirmed cases on Aug. 29, says that mosquito season in Georgia typically lasts through October, and sometimes longer depending on the weather.
EEE is rare in humans, and only a few cases are reported in the United States each year.
Georgians are urged to protect themselves from mosquito bites, particularly when they are outside this Labor Day weekend.
“Georgians can reduce the number of mosquitoes around their homes and yards by getting rid of standing water,” said Chris Rustin, DPH director of Environmental Health. “Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may be infected with West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.”
The agency says said residents should tip ‘n toss all containers that can collect water – flowerpots, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths – anything that holds water and gives mosquitoes a place to thrive. Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus look for stagnant water to breed in, and DPH says leaves and debris should be cleared from gutters and eaves.
The most effective way to protect against West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases is to prevent mosquito bites, DPH says.
Here are the “Five D’s of Prevention” during outdoor activities this holiday weekend:
- Dusk/Dawn – Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus 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, and fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash - that usually develop three to 15 days after being 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 EEE should speak to their health care provider or call their local county health department's environmental health office.
More information about mosquito-borne illnesses and mosquito repellents are available at https://dph.georgia.gov/EnvironmentalHealth.
For information about West Nile Virus and EEE, visit https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/ or https://www.cdc.gov/easternequineencephalitis/index.html.