The DeKalb County Board of Health has reported a higher risk of West Nile Virus near Emory University’s main campus.
A sample of mosquitoes from the Clifton Corridor, which consists of about 250 acres along Clifton Road, has tested positive for the virus, though the potential for transmission also exists throughout metro Atlanta, said Juanette Willis, arbovirus coordinator at the DeKalb County Board of Health.
No cases of contracting the virus have been reported in metro Atlanta so far this year.
Each year, the Board of Health collects mosquitoes throughout DeKalb County to check for virus activity. Various trap locations throughout the area have tested positive for WNV every year since 2001.
West Nile Virus is spread only by the bite of an infected mosquito, not through person-to-person contact, Willis said. Mosquitoes catch the virus when they bite a bird that carries the virus.
People who contract the virus are not likely to notice any immediate effects, Willis said. Only about one in five of those who become infected develop a fever with other symptoms, she said, and most never experience any symptoms at all. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious and sometimes fatal illness.
Most people who get bitten are able to naturally fight the virus, Willis added.
Last year in metro Atlanta, 34 cases and one death were reported, and 100 cases and six deaths were recorded across the state.
In response to the recent finding, the University’s facilities management will now make an extra effort to check containers such as birdfeeders and other potential mosquito breeding sites, according to a July 26 University press release.
Since there are currently no medications or vaccines to prevent or treat WNV, Willis said students should take measures to simply avoid getting bitten.
She recommends students use repellent, especially at dawn and dusk when the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile Virus are most active. She added that the most effective repellents for use on skin or clothing contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.
Goizueta Business School junior Casey Horowitz said he thinks students may be uneasy following the news and will go out of their way to take some extra precautions.
But College junior Andrew Catalano said he is not worried much by the increased risk.
“It’s tough to imagine getting West Nile while walking to class,” Catalano said. “But then again, I wouldn’t go running through the Hahn Woods right now either.”
– By Dustin Slade
Editor-in-Chief Arianna Skibell contributed reporting.