Experts Urge Caution as Georgia Dodges West Nile Outbreak
West Nile virus sickened nearly 3,700 people across the United States this year and killed over 200, but now cooler temperatures are pushing the virus bearing mosquitoes into the cool, dark recesses of underpasses, sewers and basements. Health officials warn that the extended periods of temperatures above 50 could bring them out of hiding and ready to bite again however. Yet for reasons experts cannot explain, Georgia has managed to dodge the worst of the virus with just 15 confirmed cases and 20 probable cases of West Nile, and three deaths that were associated but not primarily linked to the virus. Researchers and health officials were shocked to note the greater toll that other states took considering, said Elmer Gray, Georgia's public health extension specialist, that the West Nile's attack this year was the worse outbreak of encephalitis in the United States in modern times. There is no human vaccine against the virus, so experts can only recommend that people try to avoid being bitten by being well protected when outside. Georgia, thus far, has confirmed 882 sick birds and 105 equine cases of West Nile, while Florida recently reported the first cases of West Nile in alligators.