Monday, June 23, 2008

Public Health Continues Mosquito Surveillance

District 4 Public Health reminds the public to stay vigilant about preventing mosquito bites. So far this year, surveillance data gathered by the Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health confirms two horses in Lowndes County and one horse in each Cook, Berrien, Brooks, and Lanier counties tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis. A dog in Ware county was also infected.

District 4 Public Health works to protect residents against mosquito-borne viruses through arboviral surveillance. Dr. Mike Womak will be assisting District 4 again this mosquito season with the collection of potential infected mosquitoes and the enhancement of the vector disease prevention skills of environmental health personnel.

He received his training from the University of Mississippi Medical School’s graduate program and the United States Air Force. He taught in the biological science program at Macon State College for 32 years. From 1999-2006 the Tennessee Valley Authority engaged his entomological services for mosquito surveillance in North Georgia and Western North
Carolina. He also was actively engaged in collecting for West Nile Virus from 2001-2004 in Macon, Warner Robins, Albany, and Valdosta, Georgia.

Mosquito traps are set, in permanent and semi-permanent water areas, and collected beginning in mid-summer and lasting until mid-fall. Once mosquitoes are trapped they are sent to the University of Georgia’s Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study for testing. If they are
found to carry any potentially dangerous viruses District 4 personnel are notified immediately. This type of surveillance allows public health to notify residents of an increased risk in the area.

Locations for setting traps are identified using known breeding areas, complaints from residents about standing water and problems with mosquitoes, and/or dead bird calls. Calls are logged and mapped using GIS to determine placement of the mosquito traps.

Although human infections from mosquito-borne viruses are rare, mosquitoes can infect humans with West Nile Virus (WNV), Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and Saint Louis Encephalitis (SLE). People can reduce their risk of contracting these viruses by taking steps to
prevent mosquito bites and reducing mosquito habitats around the home.

The following is a reminder of four simple steps you can take to prevent and reduce bites:

1) Areas with standing water are locations where mosquitoes will
lay eggs and breed. Drain or treat standing water with larvicides
(Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Torpedoes) available at home improvement
stores. Tipping out water twice a week from planters and basins around
the house and yard as well as keeping gutters cleaned and properly
drained can prevent Mosquito problems.
2) Dawn and dusk are the times of day that mosquitoes are most
active. Avoid outdoor activity at these times.
3) Dress appropriately when outdoors for long periods of time or
when mosquitoes are most active. Wear long sleeves, pants, shoes and
socks, and clothing that is tightly woven to prevent mosquitoes from
coming in contact with your skin.
4) Use insect repellant with an EPA-approved active ingredient such
as DEET. Always follow the directions on the package for safest and most
effective use. Do not use DEET on infants or pets. For children, use
repellants sparingly and only use those that contain 10% DEET or less.

“The best prevention for West Nile Virus is to control the breeding sites of the Southern House Mosquito. This is accomplished by reducing standing water. Drain breeding sites such as clogged gutters, old buckets, swimming pools, clay jars, and dog feeding dishes. Almost
anything that will hold water can breed mosquitoes,” said Dr. Mike Womack. “Less than an inch of standing water is enough to produce hundreds of mosquitoes in a very short time.”

Products containing Permethrin can be used to treat clothing, tents, and other equipment using manufacturer specific recommendations. These products are often available in stores that also sell sporting goods.

Equine owners are encouraged to have horses vaccinated against Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). District 4 Public Health currently has no confirmed cases of WNV, EEE, or SLE. In 2006 there were nine confirmed WNV cases of human infection in Georgia, including one death and one fatal confirmed case of EEE human infection in Georgia.

In 2007, Georgia reported 52 confirmed cases of WNV infection, including 1 death. In addition to WNV, two confirmed cases and one suspect case of LaCrosse Encephalitis were reported in Georgia in 2007. One suspect case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis was also reported in
2007.

District 4 Public Health serves Butts, Carroll, Coweta, Fayette, Heard, Henry, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup, and Upson Counties.

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