Heavy Rains Bring More Mosquito Dangers

Health officials say the Coastal Empire and Low Country's rainy weather poses another danger: mosquito-borne diseases like the West Nile Virus and Encephalitis. Earlier this summer, a Brunswick man died of Eastern Equine Encephalitis. A ten year old Valdosta girl with the disease is in a Georgia hospital in critical condition.

Health officials say the mosquitoes that carry these diseases are at their highest levels since 19-91. "There have been 32 horses positive of eastern equine encephalitis in Georgia," explains Dr. Melinda Rowe from the Chatham County Health Department, "most of them have been in south or southeast Georgia."

Chickens, birds and mosquito pools in the area are also testing positive for the diseases West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Rowe says because of that,"it appears we are going to be at a higher risk for Human Equine Encephalitis and West Nile." The disease is showing up one to two months earlier than in the past, according to Henry Lewandowski with Chatham County Mosquito Control. "It's higher than it has been since 1991," he explains, "which was the last local peak."

Lewandowski says, the reason for the increase is because the area is coming out of a four year drought. "The swamps are filled with rainwater like they have not been for years," he says. Standing water breeds mosquitoes; however, Dr. Rowe says there is good news. "Most of the mosquitoes are not going to carry a disease," she says. One of 150 people who get bitten have a chance of developing a disease, and those people usually have pre-existing health issues.

Health officials say be aware, but not alarmed. The peak mosquito season is not until September or October but it is never too early to take precautions.

1. Avoid being outdoors AT DUSK AND DAWN. 2. DRAIN all outdoor items. 3. Use bug spray with DEET...but not on infants and pregnant women. 4. DRESS in long sleeves and pants if you go outdoors.

Reported by  Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com