Raleigh, N.C. — A Wilson County adult has become the first person in the state to die from West Nile virus this year, health officials reported Thursday.
The name, age and gender of the person were not released.
The illness was the first confirmed case of West Nile in the state in 2013.
The state Department of Health and Human Services warned residents and visitors to guard against the mosquito-borne illness.
"This is a tragic reminder that these infections can be fatal. Fortunately, preventive measures can significantly reduce the likelihood of infection," Dr. Robin Cummings, acting state health director, said in a statement. "Most cases of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illness occur from mid-August through mid-October in our state, so we encourage everyone to take precautions to protect against mosquitoes."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 696 cases of West Nile virus nationwide through Sept. 10, including 28 deaths. There were 2,636 cases reported during the same period last year.
According to the CDC, there were 54 confirmed West Nile cases in North Carolina from 1999 to 2012, with the number of cases peaking at 24 in 2003.
There were two West Nile deaths in the state last year: An unidentified person in the Triad area and a man in Wayne County.
Howard West, 84, of Goldsboro, died in August, 2012. His wife told WRAL News last year that she believed her husband was bitten by mosquitoes while tending to his backyard tomato plants.
DHHS listed the following recommendations to help reduce the chances of contracting West Nile:
- Eliminate standing water in 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.
- Keep window screens and panes in good condition to prevent entry of insects.
- Wear long sleeves, pants and socks while outdoors when weather permits.