LUMBERTON — An adult in Southeastern North Carolina has died of West Nile virus, the state Department of Health reported Friday.
The state agency is not releasing any other information about the virus victim so as to protect patient confidentiality.
It is not known if the victim lived in Robeson County, said Bill Smith, county Health Department director. Smith said he knew about the death only from the state Health Department’s news release.
There are unconfirmed media reports that the victim lived in Cumberland County.
The death this past week is the state’s first death from and first confirmed case of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in 2018, according to the state Health Department. From 2012-2017, there were 25 reported cases of West Nile virus in the state and seven reported deaths.
“These infections are rare, but this is a tragic reminder that they can be fatal,” said Carl Williams, state Public Health veterinarian. “We see most cases of West Nile virus from July through November, but you can still enjoy the outdoors by reducing mosquito populations around your home and through proper use of repellents.”
Most people who become infected with West Nile virus experience no symptoms or a mild, flu-like illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, about 20 percent of people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. In about 1 percent of infections, West Nile virus can cause a severe illness affecting the central nervous system, such as inflammation of the brain or inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.
West Nile virus is one of several mosquito-borne viruses that can be acquired in North Carolina, according to the state Health Department. Other mosquito-borne viruses transmitted in the state that cause human illness include LaCrosse and Eastern equine encephalitis viruses.
There are no West Nile vaccines licensed for use in humans, and no medications to cure West Nile disease once a person is infected by a mosquito, according to state health officials.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following precautions:
— Use an EPA-registered mosquito repellent and apply according the manufacturer’s instructions.
— Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside, and if possible, use air conditioning.
— Reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.
More information on the prevention of mosquito bites is available on the Division of Public Health’s website and through the CDC.