08/14/12 — Man dies of West Nile

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Man dies of West Nile

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 14, 2012 1:46 PM

North Carolina's first confirmed death for 2012 attributed to West Nile virus is an elderly man from Wayne County, county Health Director Davin Madden announced Monday afternoon.

"We found out about it this weekend, went ahead and had our staff send out a blast to all medical providers to be aware that we have a case that was nearing confirmation," he said.

According to a press release from the state Department of Health and Human Services this morning, this marks the first West Nile virus death in the state in recent history.

West Nile virus is one of several mosquito-borne viruses common to the state. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 390 cases of the disease nationwide this year, the highest number since 2004. At least eight people have died, the report said.

The virus can be transmitted from infected birds, Madden said, with more than 200 species confirmed as carriers in the nation.

"If people do see dead birds in their yards, take proper precautions to handle them," he said.

The health director also recommended avoiding breeding sites for mosquitos, by emptying standing water from wading pools, buckets and barrels, using FDA-approved mosquito repellent and wearing protective clothing like pants and long sleeves when outdoors, particularly at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

According to the CDC, the more severe symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, headache, muscle weakness and stiff neck. Some, though, may experience no symptoms at all.

Madden said he is meeting today with county officials to discuss the matter, adding that at this point he feels there is no cause for alarm.

"This gentleman (that died) had no history of traveling outside of the state, so we don't think it was related to that, probably just something local," he said.

"The big thing is to get the word out, make sure people know the basic protection measures."

Kevin Whitley, director of the Environmental Health branch of the Health Department, said there have not been any established spraying programs for mosquitos in years.

"I think the city used to spray but they have quit due to, I assume, budgetary problems," he said. "I don't know about any of the other local municipalities.

"The county has never sprayed. The population has spread so far out it's just not economically feasible. The last time I remember any kind of spraying was after Hurricane Fran and Floyd the state came in."