Every day, our journalism dismantles barriers and shines a light on the critical overlooked and under-reported issues important to all North Carolinians.

Before you go …

If you like what you are reading and believe in independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism like ours—journalism the way it should be—please contribute to keep us going. Reporting like this isn’t free to produce and we cannot do this alone. Thank you!

Cumberland County confirmed Monday that North Carolina’s first death due to the West Nile virus happened in the county.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported the death initially on Friday but did not provide any county-specific information.

The county is not reporting any further details regarding the death to protect confidentiality.

The West Nile virus, contracted from mosquito bites, typically does not produce symptoms in people and much more rarely results in severe illness and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States

State and county officials recommend mosquito repellent when exposed to the insects. Repellents that contain the chemical DEET should be used, officials said.

Mosquito image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Officials also recommend repairing any broken screens on doors or windows. Mosquito breeding can be reduced by emptying standing water from flower pots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, birdbaths or any other object that holds water at least once a week.

“We encourage the proper usage of repellents to reduce mosquito populations particularly between the months of August through October, but you can still enjoy the outdoors,” said Dr. Jennifer Green, Cumberland County health director.

9 cases statewide

There are two confirmed cases of the virus in Cumberland, the county reported Monday. Cumberland reported its first case on Sept. 8.

The county’s two cases are among the nine reported statewide as of Friday, according to DHHS.

It’s the highest number of reported cases in the state since 2018, when there were 10 cases.

Transmission of the West Nile virus typically increases two weeks to two months after a hurricane, according to DHHS.

Hurricane Ian made landfall in South Carolina on Friday and continued into North Carolina throughout the weekend.

Symptoms and transmission

While most will have no symptoms, up to 20% of infected people will experience fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands, according to the CDC.

About 1-in-150 will experience severe symptoms that require hospitalization. Those infected could experience stupor, disorientation, coma, paralysis and even death.

Transmission of the West Nile virus is almost entirely through mosquito bites.

In very rare cases, according to the CDC, the virus can spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and during pregnancy from mother to baby.

The virus is not spread person-to-person through casual contact, including touching and kissing.

The CDC recommends that those concerned about symptoms visit their health provider. Tests will be made by the doctor, if appropriate, to confirm if the patient has West Nile virus.

Ben Sessoms

Ben Sessoms is a Carolina Public Press staff writer based in Fayetteville. Send an email to bsessoms@carolinapublicpress.org to contact him.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *