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West Nile virus activity has increased in NC. Health officials offer these protection tips

The Charlotte Observer 9/22/2022 Evan Santiago, The Charlotte Observer

State health officials are urging North Carolinians to take preventive measures after an uptick in West Nile virus activity in the state.

The mosquito-borne illness has infected four people throughout the state, including two Mecklenburg County residents, the Mecklenburg County Health Department announced Thursday.

“I know this is a great time of year to be outdoors, but we want to make sure the public is taking caution and protecting themselves,” said Dr. Raynard Washington, the county’s public health director. “Enjoy the weather, but be cautious.”

The average number of reports for the virus usually lands around two this time of year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. This year’s increase led to the agency advising residents to do what they can to reduce contact with mosquitoes..

“NCDHHS and local health departments continue to regularly monitor cases of West Nile Virus in North Carolina, and encourage residents and visitors to take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illness following the recent cases of WNV reported in several areas around the state,” a health department spokesperson told The Charlotte Observer.

The four cases were reported in Durham County, Cumberland County, Mecklenburg County and New Hanover County. Health officials say there are at least 100 other, less-serious cases around the state, WBTW reported.

How harmful is West Nile virus and what are its symptoms?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the majority of people who become infected with West Nile Virus will experience mild, flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. Approximately 20% of infected people will develop a fever.

An estimated 1 in 150 people who have the virus will develop serious symptoms, rendering the virus deadly in some cases, the CDC said.

The CDC and DHHS recommend that people who develop symptoms of severe illness, such as unusually severe headaches or confusion, seek medical attention immediately.

How contagious is West Nile virus?

The virus is non-contagious and is not transmitted by humans. However, North Carolina state public health entomologist Michael Doyle urged people to take precautions.

“Detecting a number of West Nile virus infections is a reminder to take precautions, especially because there are two months of active transmission season ahead of us,” Doyle said in a news release. “People should take precautions when outside to wear mosquito repellent and by emptying standing water on their property to reduce mosquito breeding near their homes.”

Here’s what you can do to prevent a West Nile virus infection:

Use insect repellent

It’s the first defense people usually take against mosquitoes is insect repellent. And according to the DHHS, it’s a very effective one.

“The best protection against West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent when spending time outdoors in areas where mosquitoes may be present,” DHHS stated.

Mosquito repellents that contain DEET, the active ingredient in most insect deterrents, are recommended by health officials.

Check window and door screens around your home

According to the DHHS, making sure the screens on your windows and doors are sealed properly can prevent mosquitoes from entering your home. The agency also recommends using air conditioning as opposed to opening windows and doors, if possible.

Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds

The DHHS suggests that homeowners empty collected water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, dishes, birdbaths and other containers at least once a week. Doing so will disrupt a female mosquito’s plans to lay eggs around your backyard or patio.

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