First West Nile virus death of year reported in state

RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) – North Carolina health officials have announced the first death of the year in the state associated with West Nile virus.

The state Department of Health and Human Services did not specify in which county the case was reported, nor any other information, saying it is to protect the family’s privacy.

“Residents and visitors are encouraged to take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illness, especially with heavy rainfall expected in the coming days,” the NCDHHS says.

The department says North Carolina has found nine cases of West Nile virus this year and more are being investigated. Since 2012, the number of cases reported per year ranged from zero to ten.

“This is a tragic reminder that these infections, though relatively rare, can be fatal,” Michael Doyle, State Public Health Entomologist said. “We see most cases of mosquito-borne illness in the months from August through October, so we urge residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

The CDC says most people who become infected with WNV have no symptoms or experience a mild, flu-like illness. The NCDHHS says that this is partly why for every verified WNV case, there are about 100-150 more infections that go undetected.

WITN is told that about 20% of people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. In about 1% of cases, WNV can cause more severe conditions, including encephalitis, meningitis, meningoencephalitis, and possibly death.

The state department recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside in areas where mosquitoes might be present.
  • Use caution when applying to children. See for repellants that will work for you and your family.
  • Install or repair and use window and door screens.
  • Close doors, including garage doors. Do not leave doors propped open.
  • Use air conditioning when possible.
  • Reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.
  • With the remnants of Hurricane Ian hitting the state this weekend, residents should clear standing water from their homes safely and quickly after the storm passes.
  • If you think you or a family member might have WNV disease, talk with your health care provider.

The NCDHHS says the state has a contract available that allows cities and counties to reduce the populations of WNV-infected mosquitos and to reduce high mosquito populations after a hurricane.

For more information on WNV and preventing mosquito bites, visit here.

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