First human case of West Nile Virus found in Chatham County this year

Tatiana Joseph-Saunders

CHATHAM COUNTY, GA  — The Coastal Health District confirmed this year’s first human case of West Nile Virus in Chatham County. 

According to the CDC, in 2018 there were 36 human cases of West Nile and two deaths across Georgia. 

This should not be too alarming, as only one in five people develop symptoms after contracting the virus.

“Georgia Southern shouldn’t be alarmed about this, but they should be aware,” said Ginger Heidel, risk communicator for the Coastal Health District. “We see WNV happen in [Chatham County], in humans, this time of year it’s not terribly uncommon to see that happen.”

GS professor of biology Lance Durden, Ph.D., said that most people who have previously been exposed to the disease should be immune, but that there are still serious cases of WNV.

“Many people are now probably immune to the disease if they were exposed, and recovered when it spread across the USA from East to West 10 to 15 years ago,” Durden said. “However, serious cases including deaths are still recorded every year.”

Durden also said that students could avoid contracting the virus by being aware at dawn and dusk, using repellant, and avoiding high mosquito populations areas help avoid catching the virus. 

 “Like anybody else, students are most at risk of contracting the disease when the mosquito vectors are most active, i.e., at dusk and dawn,” Durden said. “Discarding standing water in flower pots, gutters, etc. also helps since mosquito larvae breed in those areas.”

Durden said if a person is symptomatic, early on the symptoms are not clear, but that they could be fever and neurological problems, including dizziness, especially after a recent mosquito bites.

“Symptoms are not definitive, especially in the early stage of the disease and other mosquito-borne diseases,” Durden said.

If students think they have contracted the virus they can contact their doctor and ask for a WNV blood test, since the virus is detectable. 

The CHD plans on keeping an eye out and relying on local doctors to notify the health department on future cases of WNV. CHD contacts Mosquito Control for updates if there seems to be certain mosquito populations with WNV.

Heidel also suggested students wear mosquito spray, specifically with the ingredient DEET.

Tatiana Joseph-Saunders, The George-Anne News Reporter, [email protected]