North Carolina Confirms 2004s First Human West Nile Infection

RALEIGH -- State Health Director Leah Devlin announces that a Surry County man has been infected with the West Nile virus (WNV). Devlin said that the patient, who is in his 50s, is recovering at home. This is the first human West Nile infection of 2004 in North Carolina. The State Laboratory of Public Health performed the positive test on Aug. 31.

 

West Nile Virus is a concern for all North Carolinians. You should always take steps to protect yourself from mosquitoes," Devlin said. "Use mosquito repellent with DEET, wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants whenever outdoors, and stay inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

 

You should also work to make habitat less mosquito-friendly, Devlin said. That means emptying water-holding containers that allow mosquito-breeding. Look around your house. Do you have any containers that are likely to hold water? If you do, then you should make sure that these containers are empty or fixed so that they cant hold water.

 

Wild birds serve as reservoirs for the virus. Mosquitoes bite the birds and then can transmit the virus to humans. The disease is not contagious an infected human cannot infect another human. Although the virus is found in an infected persons blood, donated blood is screened for the virus and this prevents most transmission through blood transfusions.

 

The CDC estimates that less than 1 percent of people who become infected with West Nile Virus will develop severe illness most people who get infected do not develop any disease at all. Symptoms include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, decrease in the level of consciousness, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. People older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease. People whose immune systems are weakened are also more likely to experience severe infections. Last year two North Carolinians died as a result of WNV infection. Both of them had weakened immune systems one as a result of cancer treatment, the other as a result of an organ transplant.

 

The incubation period in humans is usually three to 15 days. Anyone who has been bitten by a mosquito and is exhibiting the symptoms listed above should contact his or her healthcare provider.

 

Earlier this year, public health officials announced that they were ending testing of birds for WNV. Bird testing was very useful in tracking the diseases spread across the state. But last years data, which identified the disease in 92 counties, shows that the disease is present across the state ending the need for continued bird testing.

 

Source: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

 

 

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