Raleigh, N.C. — State public health officials said Tuesday a second person has died after contracting the West Nile virus, and doctors are treating three other cases.
The most recent death happened in the Triad area, according to a spokeswoman with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Earlier this month, a Wayne County man became the state's first death from West Nile virus in at least seven years.
Howard West, 84, of Goldsboro, died Aug. 9. His wife, Betty West, said she thinks her husband was bitten by mosquitoes while tending to his backyard tomato plants.
Officials said the other active cases are in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Scotland counties.
"While the Division of Public Health has only confirmed cases of West Nile in these five counties, we want to encourage everyone to protect themselves, especially at this time of year when mosquitoes are most active," said Dr. Laura Gerald, state health director.
Health and privacy restrictions limit the amount of information the state can release on the active cases. However, relatives of a Winston-Salem man confirmed he is hospitalized with the virus.
Sharon Anderson told WGHP-TV 8 that she called an ambulance for her father, Don Adkins, last week after she noticed his slurred speech. She said doctors first thought he had meningitis before testing him for West Nile.
“Of all the people in the world it could happen to, it happened to my dad,” Anderson said. She said the family believes he was bitten by mosquitoes while on his front porch.
West Nile is a bird virus that mosquitoes carry to humans. Most infected people show no signs of the virus, but common symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a stiff neck.
Cases of West Nile virus have spiked nationwide this year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reported 1,590 people so far this year have been infected. Of those cases, 66 people have died.
The CDC said the 2012 numbers are the highest reported since the virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. More than 70 percent of the cases have been Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan.
DHHS officials recommend the following precautions to eliminate potential mosquito-breeding sites around homes and businesses:
- Eliminate standing water in places such as flower pots, discarded containers, gutters and kiddie pools.
- Clean ornamental ponds and ensure that filtration systems are functioning properly.
- Clean and change water in horse troughs at least once a week.
August and September are the peak months for mosquitoes in North Carolina, and officials said people should wear long sleeves when outdoors and use approved repellents to create a double-barrier of protection.