09/22/13 — Officials: Caution helps in avoiding West Nile

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Officials: Caution helps in avoiding West Nile

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 22, 2013 1:50 AM

On the heels of the year's first reported West Nile virus death in the state, Wayne County Health Director Davin Madden stressed the need for residents to be educated and to take preventive measures.

State health officials on Thursday reported the first death and confirmed case in the state this year. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services did not identify the victim, who was from Wilson County.

Last year, an elderly Wayne County man died from the virus, which is typically transmitted by mosquitoes as well as birds. Most cases of West Nile in North Carolina occur from mid-August through mid-October, officials said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the more severe symptoms include fever, headache, muscle weakness and stiff neck. But some people may exhibit no symptoms at all.

"It's like we went over last year," Madden said. "It's something that people need to be cautious of and aware of if they're outside."

Mosquitoes are most active from dawn to dusk, he said, necessitating the need to wear proper clothing and use a repellent on exposed skin.

"Try to make sure to prevent (yourself) from getting bit by inspections," he advised. "There's no other precautions to take -- repellent and appropriate clothes. If people don't have to be outside during those times, it would be smart to do activities at other times."

Areas where there are tall grass and standing water are also potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes, Madden said.

"It's an issue we deal with," he said. "It's a danger to people but with the proper precautions, they can really minimize the risk this time of year when mosquitoes are active.

"It's always a tragedy when we lose someone to something like West Nile. You just don't know where a case will pop up. There's no predicting."

Just as health officials make it a point to educate the public each year about colds and flu, there is a need to reiterate the message about taking precautions to prevent West Nile virus, he said.

DHHS recommends eliminating standing water in places like flower pots, discarded containers, gutters and kiddie pools; cleaning ornamental ponds and ensuring that filtration systems are functioning properly; and cleaning and changing water in horse troughs at least once a week.

It is also important to keep window screens and panes in good condition to prevent insects from getting into the home and to wear long sleeves, pants and socks while outdoors when weather permits.