RALEIGH — Health officials from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced the state’s first death this year associated with West Nile virus. To protect the family’s privacy, no other information regarding the deceased will be provided.
Residents and visitors are encouraged to take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illness, especially with heavy rainfall expected in the coming days. North Carolina has identified nine cases of WNV this year, with more being investigated. Since 2012 the number of cases reported per year ranged from zero to 10.
“This is a tragic reminder that these infections, though relatively rare, can be fatal,” said Michael Doyle, State Public Health Entomologist. “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.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention most people who become infected with WNV experience either no symptoms or a mild, flu-like illness, which is partly why for every verified WNV case, there are approximately 100-150 more infections that are undetected.
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, West Nile virus can cause more serious conditions, including encephalitis, meningitis, meningoencephalitis and possibly death.
NCDHHS recommends individuals take 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 www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you 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 state now also has a contract available that allows cities and counties to reduce the populations of WNV-infected mosquitoes and to reduce high mosquito populations after a hurricane. This contract, through the N.C. Department of Public Safety, can be used by governmental entities for a range of Integrated Pest Management services, from mosquito trapping to aerial mosquito spraying.
Counties can visit www.ncdps.gov/our-organization/emergency-management/disaster-recovery/public-assistance/mosquito-abatement-contract for details.
For more information on West Nile virus and the prevention of mosquito bites visit https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/cd/diseases/wnv.html and www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html.
For more data on mosquito-borne diseases, visit wwwn.cdc.gov/arbonet/maps/ADB_Diseases_Map/index.html.