Arbo viruses (mosquito-borne illnesses) generally become a concern in our area during this time of year.
Short rainstorms followed by several days of dry weather can create standing pools of water conducive to mosquito breeding.
Increases in mosquito populations can raise the risk of human exposure to diseases such as West Nile Virus, St. Louis encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis and Eastern Equine encephalitis.
Most of these illnesses have been around for decades and mostly affect birds.
But on occasion humans, horses, or other mammals may become ill from bites from infected mosquitoes.
Bites from infected mosquitoes result in a few cases of human illness each year in Georgia with the first cases usually appearing in June and July.
In 2009, the Georgia Division of Public Health reported four cases of West Nile Virus in the state and in May reported the first case for 2010 in Clayton County.
Although the risks are low for contracting the disease it can be a serious illness for some people.
Most people who become ill from these viruses have weakened immune systems, are older, or are very young.
About one in 150 people infected with West Nile Virus will develop severe illness. Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
About 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile Virus will not show any symptoms at all. Some people who are infected suffer mild symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, nausea and vomiting.
There is no specific treatment for mosquito borne illnesses.
People who are hospitalized from severe illness receive supportive therapy that may include intravenous fluids and respiratory treatment.
The best protection against mosquitoes is to avoid getting bitten and to take certain precautions to lower exposure to mosquito bites.
• Avoiding outdoor activities during early morning and dusk when exposure to biting mosquitoes is greatest;
• Eliminating standing water around home and property, cleaning gutters regularly, and maintaining window screens;
• Using a repellant containing deet;
• Wearing lightweight long sleeve shirts and long pants with socks when outside.
Pregnant women and infants should not use repellants containing deet, but should consult a health care provider about alternative repellants.
For more information about cases of human infection, insect repellants and how to protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes, visit http://health.state.ga.us/epi/vbd/mosquito.asp