has confirmed three more human cases of West Nile virus, bringing North Carolina's 2003 case count to 17.
The newest victims of the mosquito-borne illness were identified Thursday as:
The Cumberland County case is that county's second West Nile infection this year.
West Nile virus has been found in humans, birds and other animals across the entire state. Public health officials say the disease could strike anywhere in the state, and they are reiterating their warnings for all North Carolinians to avoid mosquito bites.
West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. Wild birds serve as natural hosts for the viruses. Mosquitoes bite the birds and then can transmit the viruses to humans and animals.
A person cannot catch the diseases from another person or an infected animal. Horses can be vaccinated against West Nile virus, but there is no vaccine for humans.
According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
the majority of people infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms. Twenty percent of the people infected with West Nile virus will develop West Nile fever, which is a mild illness with fever, headaches, body aches, an occasional skin rash and swollen lymph nodes.
The CDC estimates that only one in 150 people infected with West Nile virus will experience severe infection, which is called West Nile encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or meningoencephalitis, a combination of both.
Symptoms of severe infection 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 and possible death. The incubation period in humans is usually three to 15 days.
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