NCDHHS Reports Increased West Nile Virus Activity in North Carolina, Encourages Prevention Measures

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Public health officials from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services 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 WNV 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, WNV 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). WNV can lead to death in some cases.

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“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, and with already higher-than-average cases, NCDHHS 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.

WNV 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 WNV 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.