Byline: Brian Basinger, Times-Union staff writer
ATLANTA -- State officials confirmed yesterday that four Georgia men -- including two in Southeast Georgia -- have tested positive for West Nile virus, the potentially lethal mosquito-carried disease that killed an Atlanta woman in August.
The men's test results, performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were delayed for weeks due to anthrax testing.
"This is a perfect example of why we need to upgrade lab capacity and infrastructure at the CDC immediately," said Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga. "Previous threats to public health now co-exist with the new, and Congress must fund upgrades at the CDC to prepare for and respond to both at the same time."
Two of the men infected were a 70-year old from Wayne County, hospitalized in mid-October, and a 68-year-old from Pierce County, who is still hospitalized.
"Both of these individuals are recovering," said Ted Holloway, a physician and district health director for the Southeast Health Unit, which stretches from Statesboro to Waycross.
The other two victims are a 61-year-old man from Macon County and a 73-year-old man from Richmond County, near Augusta.
The CDC did not release names of any of the victims.
State epidemiologist Susan Lance-Parker said the delay in testing did not pose a health threat to the ill men.
"If we waited . . . to report them," she said, "it would not change anything in terms of public health or public response. The risk of the disease is small."
Three of the men have been released from the hospitals that treated them, while the Pierce County man is still being treated for encephalitis, the potentially fatal brain-swelling that can accompany West Nile virus.
All four are expected to survive.
These additional cases bring the total number of Georgia cases to five, including the 71-year-old Fulton …