Officials urge caution with West Nile cases on the rise

ATLANTA -- With a significant number of West Nile virus cases across the state, the Georgia Department of Public Health is urging residents to protect themselves against mosquitoes.

The Department of Public Health had confirmed 21 total cases of West Nile in Georgia as of last week. Three were fatal, officials said. While none have been recorded in Gwinnett -- two of the closest confirmed cases coming in Fulton and Forsyth counties -- officials said mosquitoes in 54 metro Atlanta monitoring sites have tested positive for the virus.

"The problem of mosquitoes and West Nile virus appears to be escalating in Georgia and across the country," said Dr. J. Patrick O'Neal, DPH's director of health protection. "More West Nile virus cases have been confirmed by the third week in August than at any time in the last 10 years."

Officials urged adherence to the "five D's" of West Nile virus protection:

-- Dusk: Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus usually bite at dusk and dawn

-- Dawn: Avoid outdoor activity at dusk and dawn if possible

-- Dress: Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin

-- DEET: Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing the chemical DEET, the most effective repellent against mosquito bites

-- Drain: Empty any containers holding standing water. They can be excellent breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.

For more information, including a list of West Nile virus symptoms, visit cdc.gov.