RALEIGH — Public health officials from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) are encouraging residents and visitors to take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illness following recent cases of West Nile virus in several parts of the state.
The four reported human cases of West Nile virus is double the average number of cases at this point in the year. The average number of cases by the end of August each year is two.
While the majority of people who become infected with West Nile virus usually experience either no symptoms or a mild, flu-like illness, about 20% of infected people will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. In about 1% of infections, West Nile virus causes serious conditions, including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues). West Nile virus can lead to death in some cases.
“Detecting a number of West Nile virus infections is a reminder to take precautions, especially because there are two months of active transmission season ahead of us,” said Michael Doyle, State Public Health Entomologist. “People should take precautions when outside to wear mosquito repellent and by emptying standing water on their property to reduce mosquito breeding near their homes.”
Fall is the time of year when most cases of mosquito borne illnesses are reported. With an already higher-than-average number of cases, NCDHHS recommends that citizens use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside in areas where mosquitos might be present, install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitos out, to reduce mosquito breeding emptying standing water from yards.
If you or a family member might have the contracted the West Nile virus, the NCDHHS recommends that you reach out to your health care provider as soon as possible.
West Nile virus is one of several mosquito-borne viruses which may infect people in North Carolina. Others include eastern equine encephalitis virus and La Crosse virus. Insect repellants are effective against the mosquito species that carry these diseases.
For more information on prevention of mosquito bites and West Nile virus visit the NCDHHS Division of Public Health website at https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/cd/diseases/wnv.html and www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html.