Molds are fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. Molds grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions, and spread and reproduce by making spores. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dry conditions, that do not support normal mold growth.
Molds are found in virtually every environment and can be detected, both indoors and outdoors, year round. Mold growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions. Outdoors they can be found in shady, damp areas or places where leaves or other vegetation is decomposing. Indoors they can be found where humidity levels are high, such as basements or showers.
Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Others, such as those with serious allergies to molds or those exposed to large amounts of mold in occupational settings, may have more severe reactions —including fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
Recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children, particularly among children who may be genetically susceptible to asthma development, and that selected interventions that improve housing conditions can reduce morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies, but more research is needed in this regard.
Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be many different colors, and can smell musty. If you can see or smell mold, a health risk may be present. You do not need to know the type of mold growing in your home, and CDC does not recommend or perform routine sampling for molds. No matter what type of mold is present, you should remove it. Since the effect of mold on people can vary greatly, either because of the amount or type of mold, you can not rely on sampling and culturing to know your health risk. Also, good sampling for mold can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable quantity of mold have not been set. The best practice is to remove the mold and work to prevent future growth.
WEST NILE VIRUS
West Nile virus is a virus spread by infected mosquitoes. The virus usually infects birds, but mosquitoes that feed on infected birds and then bite humans can spread the disease to humans. Rarely, West Nile virus may be acquired through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding, and during pregnancy from mother to baby . The virus cannot be spread from casual person to person contact.
Historically, West Nile virus has been found in parts of Africa, West Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. The virus was identified in the United States for the first time during 1999 and first detected in Georgia in 2001. West Nile virus rarely causes serious illness or death, but persons over 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.
Mild cases of West Nile infection may have a slight fever and/or headache. More severe infections are marked by high fever, headache, muscle aches and weakness, convulsions and paralysis. Symptoms usually occur 3-14 days after exposure. There is no specific treatment for an infected person, and there is no human vaccine to prevent infection.
The best way to prevent infection with West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid getting mosquito bites by observing the Five D’s of WNV Prevention:
- Dusk/Dawn – Mosquitoes carrying WNV usually bite at dusk and dawn, so avoid or limit outdoor activity at these times.
- Dress – Wear loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.
- DEET – Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing the DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites.
- Drain – Empty any containers holding standing water because they can be excellent breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.
- Doors – Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly, and fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.
The Cobb & Douglas Public Health, Center for Environmental Health is available to answer questions and provide educational material in regard to West Nile virus and other mosquito related issues. For more information, please call 770-435-7815.
Additional West Nile virus information may be found at the following websites:
Effective mosquito control can be a challenge due to vacant and unmaintained properties. The Cobb & Douglas Public Health, Center for Environmental Health is available to evaluate these properties and initiate measures to resolve mosquito harborage issues. To file a complaint, please contact our Cobb County office at 770-435-7815 or our Douglas County office at 770-920-7311.