Health officials: Prevent West Nile virus

1st case in area confirmed in Brantley County, Ga.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - At St. Paul AME Church in St. Augustine, Jodi Scott is teaching summer campers how dangerous mosquitoes can be and how to keep from being their next victim. It's a message she says can never be taught too early when it comes to preventing West Nile virus.

"We take cautions because it could be here, but especially when it comes to Georgia, somewhere really close to us, yes absolutely, we monitor it very closely," said Scott, of St. Johns County Mosquito Control.

She said experts there are on high alert after hearing about the confirmed West Nile case in Brantley County, Ga. It's the first in either Florida or Georgia this year, and that person has since made a full recovery.

Scott said now is the middle of the bad months for bug bites.

"With the increase in rains and the storm fronts that are suppose to be coming through, we expect more mosquitoes based on those factors," she said.

"Our biggest thing right now is our prevention message," said Vincy Samuel, an epidemiologist for the Duval County Health Department.

Health departments all across the area are warning people to be careful. Samuel said that last year Duval County had a record-high 28 human cases of West Nile virus, and one of those was fatal.

"People that are older and have underlying illnesses, they're at a higher risk for acquiring the more severe form of the illness," Samuel said.

She said everyone should be aware and do their part. She suggests dumping standing water, wearing bug spray with DEET, covering up, and avoiding the outdoors at dusk and dawn.

This summer in Clay County, Mosquito Control workers set out a trap in the Argyle area near a swamp and caught about 4,000 mosquitoes at one time. That's a county record.

Symptoms of the West Nile virus may occur one to 14 days after becoming infected. Mild symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, headache, lack of appetite, muscle aches, nausea, rash, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes and vomiting.

The symptoms usually last for three to six days, but may last a month.

More severe forms of the disease could be life-threatening. Those symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness, muscle weakness and stiff neck, and weakness of one arm or leg.

People with any of those symptoms should contact their primary doctor right away.

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