Medical experts give advice to avoid pest-borne illnesses this summer

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – It’s a natural instinct to swat and smack, but sometimes you can’t fight off a mosquito.

“It already is fairly warm, we’ve had a lot of rain. We’re likely to see another good year for mosquitoes,” says Dr. Jeff Burne, a Biology Professor at Middle Georgia State College.

Very rarely, their bites can leave more than just a red bump and itch. Mosquitoes can carry different viral diseases. Four of them have been seen in Georgia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a few cases of Chikungunya in previous years, but none of them were acquired locally.

“It’s been very big in South America,” continues Dr. Burne.

Amber Erickson, the North Central Health District’s epidemiologist, explains people usually contract this virus when they’re out of the country.

“Last year, it started becoming locally transmitted in Florida, so we are keeping a very close eye on Chikungunya,” adds Erickson.

Common symptoms for Chikungunya include fever, joint pain, headache and a rash. There is no treatment. The CDC says with plenty of rest and fluids, most people feel better in a week.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis comes from horses.

“Only 1 in 20 people will ever develop symptoms and they’re going to be fever, muscle pain, and headache. They can develop into seizures and coma,” states Erickson.

Erickson adds about 50-percent of people who get the virus die, but Dr. Burne says it’s extremely uncommon.

“It’s possible that we’ll have a couple of cases, but odds are, no, you’re not going to get that one,” says Dr. Burne.

The CDC reports there is no treatment to fight Eastern Equine Encephalitis, but doctors can treat the symptoms of the illness like brain swelling.

Most cases of LaCrosse Encephalitis occur in the northern part of Georgia because the mosquito that carries it breeds in tree holes.

“Most are asymptomatic, so they will never develop symptoms. Those that do are going to be flu-like symptoms,” explains Erickson.

According to Erickson, some cases can develop into viral meningitis, which is the swelling of the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord. This can lead to paralysis and death. The CDC says most people which LaCrosse Encephalitis will make a full recovery. Only about one-percent of the cases result in death. There is no treatment for the virus, but Erickson adds it’s very unlikely someone will catch it.

Mosquitoes get the West Nile Virus from birds.

“We did have a nice rise in West Nile a couple years ago, but then last year, it kind of went down,” recalls Dr. Burne.

The CDC reports the disease was first found in Georgia in 2001. Since then, hundreds of positive birds, horses, and mosquitoes have been identified in the Peach State.

“About 20-percent of people do develop symptoms, so most are going to be asymptomatic,” Erickson tells 41NBC.

Erickson adds, symptoms include headache, fever, and joint swelling with less than one-percent developing swelling of the brain. There is no treatment.

The CDC claims all of these viral diseases can be prevented with simple measures to avoid mosquitoes.

“Any pools of water that you may have around your yard, a dog water bowl, an old tire that filled up because it rained, you want to make sure you’re dumping that out,” says Erickson.

When you can’t wear long sleeved shirts and pants, Erickson recommends using mosquito spray with deet. If you think you’ve contracted one of these diseases, the CDC advises you to see your doctor and then call the CDC office to report it.

Categories: Bibb County, Local News

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