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Local case of West Nile virus confirmed

Confirmed cases of West Nile virus have increased in the past few weeks with three more human cases bringing the tally to 11 different people affected by West Nile this year, including one local resident. The Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed that of the 11 human cases of West Nile virus, one of the victims died. According to the CDC, most people – about eight out of 10 – who are infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. However, Shane Thomas, 44, of Meansville, suffered through the most severe symptoms of West Nile, including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), high fever, vomiting, headache, fatigue and flu-like symptoms. He spent 17 days in the hospital in August as doctors did tests to determine the cause for his extreme illness. ’I can’t remember all of it, but for most of that time, I was running a fever of around 105 degrees. I had a headache from behind my ears across the whole back of my head. it was a terrible pain. I felt fatigued, ran a constant fever, had the chills and other bad flu systems. I was throwing up probably 20 times a day,’ said Shane. ‘It’s scary because people just don’t believe it’s around or the doctors think it’s something that very rarely happens.’ ’Out of the confirmed cases this year, they’ve had one fatality and I can understand why they have that fatality, because doctors run lots of tests but they aren’t always checking for West Nile virus,’ he said. His mother, Lynn Thomas who is a nurse, insisted he have a spinal tap to test his spinal fluid. Initial testing showed it was clear but eventually it was tested for West Nile and that was confirmed as the problem. Shane was treated with antibiotics and is recovering slowly. ’I’m still trying to recover. I’ve been told it can take up to six months to a year to get back normal. At times now I have shakes and other issues. It wasn’t a good experience. I’m pretty active. I like to get outdoors and hunt and fish and go to baseball fields,’ he said. ‘I used to not even think about it but now I tell people you have to use a good bug spray. I love to deer hunt and I will be going in the woods with thermacells and mosquito sprays. I don’t care if I never kill another deer, I want to make sure that I don’t get bit again. It could be worse if I get it again. If I have any super powers, fighting a mosquito would be okay with me.’ In addition to West Nile, there has been one confirmed case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) which resulted in death. EEE is rare illness in humans, and only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. ’When I talked to the CDC, they asked me if I’d been around horses and I had not been around horses but I was around cows in the last week of July,’ said Shane. Georgians are urged to protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially over the next several weeks. Mosquito season in Georgia typically lasts through October, sometimes longer depending on the weather. ’West Nile is throughout the state and the potential for getting it is everywhere and that’s why people need to take preventatives steps,’ said Logan Boss, Georgia Public Health District spokesman. ‘Mosquitos are still active and the potential for getting West Nile virus still exists everywhere in Georgia and throughout the southeast so people really need to avoid contact mosquitos.’ Locals can reduce the number of mosquitoes around their homes and yards by getting rid of standing water which often becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may be infected with West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. Tip and toss all containers that can collect water – flowerpots, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths – anything that holds water and gives mosquitoes a place to thrive. Mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus look for stagnant water to breed in, so be sure gutters and eaves are clear of leaves and debris. Shane – who has lived in Meansville since he was 15 years old – says he never remembers getting bitten by a mosquito in the days or weeks before the illness started. ’I can’t remember getting bit by a mosquito but I did some research and you can get bit and it can take anywhere from two to 15 days for the symptoms to start,’ he said. ‘I also encourage people to ask their doctors to test for West Nile if their tests aren’t showing anything. They have to do a specific test on the spinal fluid to find out if you have West Nile. During August the number of cases have just exploded. I wish there was a way to get rid of every mosquito in the state of Georgia. It’s just real scary. Being 43 years old, I never felt like I was going to die like I did then. I hope nobody else has to go through this.’

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