DeKalb County public health officials have found mosquitoes in Dunwoody that tested positive for West Nile Virus.
Dunwoody is one of 14 locations throughout the county where the virus was detected in mosquitoes, said Juanette Willis of the DeKalb County Board of Health.
“It’s pretty common. We have had a lot of the virus in the last two years. It does fluctuate from year to year,” Willis said.
Willis said for more than a decade, her department has been testing for the virus as well as placing larvicide in storm drains where mosquitoes are known to breed. West Nile Virus was first discovered in North America in 1999, she said.
“As it spread through the country, the first couple of years it’s in an area you have a lot of bird mortality,” Willis said. “We had thousands of birds dying and we were collecting and testing birds. We actually found the virus in 2001 and we have been doing this program ever since.”
Willis said officials are investigating a possible human case of West Nile Virus in the Doraville area.
“We have been able to keep our human case numbers minimal in comparison with other parts of the country and we’re very pleased we’ve been able to provide this service,” Willis said.
In about 80 percent of West Nile Virus cases, people have no symptoms at all or symptoms similar to a common cold.
“People can be bit by a mosquito with West Nile Virus and never know they had the virus,” Willis said.
In 19 percent of cases, people will show flu-like symptoms. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most serious cases include symptoms such as coma, tremors, vision loss and paralysis that could last for several weeks or even cause permanent damage.
“It’s the 1 percent that can have really severe illness,” Willis said. “Unfortunately the severe illness is very, very severe and can be life altering.”
The best way to prevent West Nile Virus is to dump out any standing water that might gather in places like flower pots or clogged gutters where mosquitoes could breed, Willis said.
“These mosquitoes have become really urbanized and tend to breed in small man-made containers,” she said. “[They] don’t tend to fly very far. So if you have them you’re probably breeding them in your own yard.”
She said it’s also important to wear insect repellant when spending time outdoors. Dawn and dusk are the times mosquitoes tend to feed, so avoiding outdoor activities at those times may also reduce the risk of being bitten.
“Now is when we really want people taking that extra step,” Willis said.