Health officials sound alarm on West Nile virus in North Carolina

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)(Rick Bowmer | AP)
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 1:24 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - Public health officials say there is an increased number of cases of the West Nile virus in North Carolina this year.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says there are four reported human cases of the virus, double the average number of cases at this point in the year.

Officials say that while the majority of people who become infected with the virus usually experience either no symptoms or a mild, flu-like illness, 20% of those infected develop a fever with symptoms like a headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.

WITN is told that in about 1% of infections, WNV causes severe 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). In some cases, the virus can lead to death.

Because of the possible severity of the virus and the increased activity, state health officials are asking residents and visitors to take precautions to prevent the mosquito-borne illness.

“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,” Public Health Entomologist Michael Doyle said. “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.”

The NCDHHS says that fall is the time of year when most cases of mosquito-borne illnesses are reported, and with an already higher-than-average WNV case count, the department recommends the following precautions:

  • Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside in areas where mosquitoes might be present.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside. Or keep windows and doors closed and use air conditioning if 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.
  • If you think you or a family member might have WNV disease, talk with your health care provider.

More information on WNV and the prevention of mosquito bites can be found here.

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