The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports that as of Aug. 29, five cases of West Nile virus, including two deaths, have been reported in the state, including one in neighboring Scotland County.
Confirmed cases have also been reported in Cabarrus, Forsyth, Mecklenburg, and Wayne counties. Last week, a 63-year old Scotland County resident was reported to have the virus. According to Tina Clark, nursing director of the Scotland County Health Department, that patient was “doing OK” as of her most recent update.
State Health Director Dr. Laura Gerald urges residents and visitors to take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illness, including regular use of insect repellent and eliminating potential breeding sites around homes and businesses.
“While the Division of Public Health has only confirmed cases of West Nile in these five counties, we want to encourage everyone to protect themselves, especially at this time of year, when mosquitoes are most active,” Dr. Gerald said. “West Nile, and other mosquito-borne illness, can occur in any county in North Carolina.”
Preventative measures against West Nile virus focus primarily upon preventing mosquito bites and curtailing mosquito proliferation near homes and other areas populated by humans.
“They need to take preventative steps as long as mosquitoes are around,” Clark said. “With all of this rain that we’ve had, they definitely need to make sure that they empty any standing water around their houses — buckets and things like that — and make sure that they stay empty.”
Those who venture outside around sunset should ensure that they are adequately protected from the pernicious insects.
“The majority of mosquitoes are out at dusk, so people definitely need to make sure they are protected during that time,” said Clark. “Also if you’re wearing thin clothes, the mosquitoes will bite through the clothes.”
Symptoms of West Nile occur between three and 14 days following the infectious bite, but 80 percent of people bitten by infected mosquitoes will never exhibit symptoms. Milder symptoms of the virus include headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
More severe symptoms, such as high fever, convulsions, numbness, and paralysis, affect one of every 150 people infected with West Nile. These symptoms are usually exhibited by seniors and children.
“The elderly and very young are more susceptible. In fact it’s recommended that if children have wading pools, be sure that they are emptied when not in use — anything that holds water and is not being changed regularly,” said Clark.
As of Aug. 28, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 48 states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 1,590 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 66 deaths, have been reported to CDC.