Originally created 08/20/04

Disease is confirmed in two Atlanta men



Two Atlanta men are Georgia's first confirmed human cases of West Nile virus this year, the state Division of Public Health announced Thursday. Two south Georgia men, one of whom died, also might have gotten the disease last year from dialysis, although it is more likely it came from a mosquito bite, health officials said.

A 44-year-old man and a 52-year-old man both got sick from the virus earlier this month and are still recovering from it, the state said. At least 20 Georgia counties have reported West Nile-positive mosquito pools or birds, including one bird from Richmond County. It's about the time of year when human cases start showing up, said public health spokesman Richard Quartarone.

"In fact, it shows that we're right on schedule," he said. "Mosquitoes tend to get more active, (in) higher concentration, the later and hotter it gets. "

The number of infected mosquitoes also has to build up before transmission to people is more likely, he said. That season usually peaks in September, epidemiologist Katherine Bryant said.

So far, the Richmond County Health Department has had only 211 complaints this year, well below what would be expected, environmental health specialist Cheryl Turner said. But that could change soon as the weather starts to warm up again, she said.

"We're going to have another influx of complaints," Ms. Turner said.

Georgia public health also reported this week the results of an investigation into two men who got West Nile after using the same dialysis machine on the same day last August. They were identified only as being from south Georgia, and the center was not identified. The study appeared in this week's edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The two men lived in the same neighborhood, and a woman who lived nearby who used the machine between the men also showed evidence of West Nile infection, although health officials could not determine when or where it happened, Ms. Bryant said. Because health officials also did not discover any lapses in infection control at the dialysis center, the investigation was ultimately "inconclusive," Ms. Bryant said. Because it is theoretically possible it was transmitted that way, health officials decided to put out the report as a caution to health care providers but are not calling it a big concern, Ms. Bryant said.

"The main point is that it's much more likely they got West Nile from a mosquito bite," she said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.