Decatur man fifth Georgian to contract West Nile this year

A 39-year-old Decatur man is the fifth person in the state to contract the West Nile virus in 2010, the DeKalb County Board of Health confirms.

While that's one more case than was reported in 2009, it's a significant decrease from 2007, when Georgia had 52 cases and one death.

Public health officials were concerned about an uptick this year when a Clayton County man was diagnosed with the virus, carried by mosquitoes, in May -- two months before peak season, which lasts through September.

"It could be a rough summer," Hayla Hall, spokeswoman for District 4 Public Health, said at the time.

But dry conditions may have curbed the risk.

The number of confirmed cases has dropped significantly in Georgia and nationwide. As of Tuesday 26 states have reported 177 cases to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That's not to say West Nile is any less dangerous. The Decatur man, hospitalized Aug. 22,  has already suffered partial paralysis, according to the DeKalb Board of Health.

"I hope this will remind everyone to continue using precautions to avoid mosquito bites," said S. Elizabeth Ford, DeKalb's district health director.

About one in 150 people infected with the disease develop severe symptoms that can include paralysis, high fever, convulsions and coma. People 50 and older face the greatest risk.

--Staff writer Craig Schneider contributed to this report