First human case of West Nile virus confirmed in Chatham County

Health News

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – Health officials announced Tuesday that the first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) has been confirmed in Chatham County this year.

According to the Georgia Department of Health, this is the first in their Coastal Health District, which serves Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties. It’s the fourth human case in Georgia in 2019 so far.

The Department of Health says Chatham County Mosquito Control first detected and reported WNV in a sample of local mosquitoes in July, and the virus quickly spread throughout the mosquito population across the county. 

“That midtown area has still been the most active area we’ve seen throughout the county this year,” said Ture Carlson with Chatham County Mosquito Control.

Carlson is tasked with controlling growing mosquito populations that test positive for WNV.

The lower the numbers, the less likely a person will become sick.

“Confirmation of a human case doesn’t really change our operation much,” said Carlson. “Once we get a positive we are throwing every trick we have available to us in order to keep the population down.”

Carlson said 2019 is already the second most active year for West Nile virus in Chatham County mosquitoes.

This is based on data collected when the virus was first detected here back in 2002.

“2011 was the most active year, we had 214 positive mosquito pools and this year we are at 188 already with basically all of September and most of October more than likely,” said Carlson.

That may sound a little scary, but Robert Thornton with the Coastal Health District said it’s common to see the virus jump to the human population during the summer months.

“This is the peak of what we call our ‘arboviral season,’ which is mosquito-borne illnesses, in our area is late summer into the fall,” said Thornton. “It would not be unexpected to have additional human cases, but I don’t expect an abundance of human cases.”

Mosquitoes that carry WNV are more likely to bite during the evening, night, and early morning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80% of people who get WNV won’t have any symptoms. Those who do become sick typically develop a fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. However, about 1 in 150 will develop severe symptoms affecting the central nervous system, which could be fatal.

Last year, there were 36 lab-confirmed cases of WNV in humans in Georgia and two deaths. 

There is no vaccine to prevent WNV, and no treatment other than supportive care for the symptoms. The Coastal Health District urges everyone to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Wearing insect repellent containing the chemical DEET will help keep mosquitoes away.
  • Eliminating standing water around the home and yard to keep mosquitoes from breeding.
  • Tip containers such as children’s toys, flowerpots, and planters after every rain or at least once a week and toss out anything that holds water, such as old tires or cans.
  • Clean out gutters, remove piles of leaves, and keep vegetation cut low to prevent landing sites for adult mosquitoes.

For more information on mosquito bite prevention, outdoor spraying and other resources, visit the CDC’s website here.

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