RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Five cases of West Nile virus have been reported to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services since Aug. 1, and state officials are reminding people to take precautions against the mosquito-borne disease.
“We are seeing a slight increase, although I don’t think it’s something to be too concerned about other than just remember that these viruses are circulating and take precautions,” said Carl Williams, NCDHHS State Public Health Veterinarian.
According to a news release, though the most common time to be infected with mosquito-borne diseases in North Carolina is late summer and early autumn, only two or three cases are usually reported by this time of the year.
“As we move into the fall months and colder weather, this is a reminder that mosquitos are still active and can transmit West Nile virus,” Michael Doyle, state public health entomologist, said in the release. “We urge residents to take precautions and protect themselves from mosquito bites and local governments to implement integrated mosquito management methods for mosquito control.”
All five individuals who were reported to have West Nile virus have since recovered, according to state officials.
Most people who contract West Nile virus don’t develop any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately one in five infected people develop symptoms such as a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash.
Severe illness from a West Nile virus infection, such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord) can develop in about one in 150 people.
NCDHHS recommends the following steps to protect against mosquito bites and prevent mosquito-borne infections:
- Use mosquito repellent containing DEET (or something equivalent) when outside
- Use caution when applying repellent on children
- Install or repair window and door screens and utilize them
- Close doors (including garage doors) without screens and don’t leave doors propped open
- Use air conditioning if needed due to lack of window or door screens
- Empty standing water around your property in flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, birdbaths, etc. at least once a week to discourage mosquito breeding
- If you suspect you or a family may have West Nile virus, contact a health care provider
West Nile virus is not the only mosquito-borne illness in the state. According to officials, approximately 20 cases of La Crosse encephalitis are reported each year in western North Carolina, and one has been reported so far this year.
There is also a small risk of contracting eastern equine encephalitis in the eastern part of the state, according to officials, but no cases have been reported so far in 2023.