The arrival of another mosquito-borne disease in Georgia has Richmond County Mosquito Control on high alert, urging residents to protect themselves from bites and eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed.
Last week, Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed the state’s first human case of chikungunya, a disease that causes severe joint pain and fever. Although not as deadly as West Nile virus or other mosquito-transmitted diseases, local mosquito control officials said it’s just a matter of time before chikungunya shows up in Augusta.
“It’s not if, it’s when,” said Fred Koehle, special projects manager for Richmond County Mosquito Control.
The first Georgia patient with the disease was infected during a recent trip to the Caribbean. Travelers to Africa, Asia and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific are also at risk.
Infected patients must take extra safeguards against additional mosquito bites, since an infected mosquito can transmit it to another human, according to Georgia DPH. Mosquitoes that carry the disease bite during day and night, and often live around buildings in urban areas.
“This disease can be passed human to mosquito to another human. All we need is an infected human,” Koehle said.
With a new mosquito-related health concern, Koehle said residents need to be even more cautious. Wear mosquito repellent and dump any standing water, he said.
Mosquito control has continued responding to complaints from residents where mosquito populations are problematic, Koehle said.
This summer, residents need to call the city’s 311 service instead of the mosquito control office to report problems. The 311 call center has helped log complaints and improve efficiency responding to them, Koehle said.
So far this summer, complaints have been low but Koehle said the next big rainfall will change that. Mosquitoes need rain in which to inundate eggs to hatch, and several generations of eggs are accumulating during the recent period of dry weather.