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53-year-old diagnosed with West Nile

LAWRENCEVILLE - Another Gwinnett County resident has been diagnosed with West Nile virus, according to Health Department officials.

The Gwinnett County Health Department announced Wednesday a 53-year-old in the northern part of the county has tested positive for the mosquito-borne disease.

According to Health Department spokesman Vernon Goins, this is the second case of a West Nile infection in the county. The first case was discovered in late July when a 57-year-old person tested positive for the disease.

Goins said the 53-year-old who recently tested positive is in recovery stages and now back at work.

Goins said he could not release specific information about the 53-year-old or the specific area of the county where the person is from.

The Health Department originally announced Wednesday that two people had tested positive for the virus, but Goins said a 42-year-old once thought to have the disease in fact had only previously been exposed to the virus.

"It was not an active, acute case as was illustrated in the 53-year-old patient," Goins said of the 42-year-old's illness. "Any illness at this time is due to something else."

Goins said high fever, chills, a stiff neck, body aches and extreme fatigue were the symptoms experienced by the 53-year-old, all typical symptoms of a West Nile infection.

"This 53-year-old loves to garden in the evening, and this is the prime time for the Culex (southern house mosquito)," Goins said. "This person probably didn't even know they had been bitten."

People over the age of 50 and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk for developing serious illness when infected with West Nile. According to the Health Department, most people who are infected with the disease do not have symptoms.

Goins said a small number of people infected may develop serious illness such as meningitis or encephalitis.

The case announced Wednesday is the second known case of infection in Gwinnett County this year and brings the total cases of human West Nile infections in Georgia to 17. Goins said last year 10 Georgians contracted West Nile, but none of those cases were in Gwinnett County.

The Health Department is urging residents to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites by the Culex mosquitoes, the type of mosquito that carries the virus, and to control mosquito breeding.

"For this particular year it seems that West Nile virus is staging a comeback," Goins said. "We certainly need to be even more alert because we still have a good month to go before the mosquitoes begin dying off."

Goins said the heavy drought could be to blame for the increased numbers of the insects.

"It (the dry conditions) creates more of a habitat for the Culex mosquito," Goins said.

The department recommends residents avoid outdoor activity during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, cover exposed skin when outside, use insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET and drain standing water.

For more information about West Nile virus in Gwinnett, visit www.gwinnetthealth.com.