Local News

West Nile Virus Confirmed In Eastern N.C. Man

Posted August 6, 2003

— An eastern North Carolina man has been infected with the West Nile virus, according to the state health director. Dr. Leah Devlin said that the victim is at home and recovering from the virus.

The clinician caring for the man considered West Nile virus because of his fever, headache, and other symptoms. He was not hospitalized and never manifested neurologic problems. A blood sample sent to the State Laboratory for Public Health confirmed the man's exposure to West Nile virus.

Devlin noted that the specific location of the victim isn't really important, because West Nile Virus is prevalent across the state and could affect anyone anywhere.

"Already this year the virus has been identified in birds from 24 counties from Dare County on the coast to Macon County in the west," she explained. "It is here. It has affected a person in the state, and has the potential to affect others. That's why people need to be very diligent in preventing mosquito bites.

"The risk of a healthy person becoming sick with West Nile virus or other mosquito-borne illness from a single mosquito bite is very low, but you should always take steps to protect yourself from mosquitoes," Dr. Devlin said. "Use mosquito repellent with DEET, wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants legs whenever outdoors, and stay inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active."

Wild birds serve as reservoirs for the virus. Mosquitoes bite the birds and then can transmit the virus to humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. Twenty percent of the people infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever, which is a mild illness with fever, headaches, body aches, an occasional skin rash and swollen lymph nodes.

The eastern North Carolina man's infection was most consistent with West Nile fever.

The CDC estimates that only 1 in 150 people infected with WNV will experience severe infection, which is called West Nile encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meninigitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or meningoencephalitis, a combination of both. Symptoms of WNV encephalitis, meningitis and meningoencephalitis include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. People older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

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 health care provider. Other precautions that can reduce the risk of mosquito bites include the following:

  • Remove any containers that can hold water, even a small amount – especially old tires
  • Keep gutters clean and in good repair
  • Repair leaky outdoor faucets and change the water in bird baths and pet bowls at least twice a week
  • Use screened windows and doors and make sure screens fit tightly and are not torn.
  • Any decision to spray for mosquitoes will be made by health officials based upon a number of factors including population density and weather patterns. Experts with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Public Health Pest Management Section will continue to collect and test mosquitoes and wild birds to l track further evidence of the virus.

    Residents are strongly encouraged to help public health officials look for West Nile virus by reporting dead crows, blue jays, cardinals, hawks and owls to their local health department.

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