Health officials from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Public Health encourage residents and visitors to take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illness following a death from West Nile virus infection. This is North Carolina's first death and first confirmed case in 2015. Further details regarding the deceased are not available to protect patient confidentiality.
Mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus infection usually cause either no symptoms or mild, flu-like illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention most people (70-80%) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. However, it can cause more serious conditions, including encephalitis, meningitis and meningoencephalitis in about 1 percent of cases which can be fatal. West Nile virus is one of several mosquito-borne viruses known to occur in North Carolina, in addition to eastern equine encephalitis and La Crosse encephalitis. There have been 13 cases reported from 2010 through 2014.
"This is a tragic reminder that these infections, though relatively rare, can be fatal," said Dr. Carl Williams, State Public Health Veterinarian. "We see most cases of mosquito-borne illness in the months from August through October but you can still enjoy your time outdoors by following some basic control measures."
DHHS recommends the following precautions:
- Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when exposed to mosquitoes. Use caution when applying to children.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside and if possible, use air conditioning.
- 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.