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More West Nile cases surface in North Carolina, and health experts recommend upping your anti-mosquito efforts

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State health officials are cautioning North Carolinians to take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illness following the confirmation of four cases of West Nile virus.

Although the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services declined Monday to identify the four infected individuals, citing healthcare privacy laws, officials said the cases were “in several parts of the state.”

On Sept. 13, the Forsyth County Department of Public Health announced that mosquitoes in the county have tested positive for the virus. Forsyth has not confirmed any local cases of the virus in humans.

The last confirmed case in Forsyth was a single infection in November.

The mosquitoes tested positive for the virus as part of regular monitoring and testing that the county’s Environmental Health Division does every mosquito season.

Crews are treating areas where the West Nile-positive insects were found in order to kill the adult mosquitoes.

The current case total is double the typical number for this time of year, DHHS said. Fall is when most cases of mosquito-borne illnesses are reported.

Most people who contract the West Nile Virus have no symptoms, DHHS said, but rare, serious cases can be deadly.

While the most common symptoms of West Nile are mild, about 20% of infected people will develop a fever with other symptoms, such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.

DHHS said about 1% of infections led to serious health conditions, including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues).

“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,” Michael Doyle, the state’s public health entomologist, said in a statement.

DHHS recommends these steps:

Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside in areas where mosquitoes might be present.

Use caution when applying insect repellent to children. See EPA.gov/insect-repellents for advice on repellants that will work for you and your family.

Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside, or keep windows and doors closed and use air conditioning if possible.

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.

Other mosquito-borne viruses include eastern equine encephalitis virus and La Crosse virus. Insect repellants are effective against the mosquitoes that carry these diseases.

Go to www.NCdhhs.gov and search West Nile or go to www.cdc.gov/westnile for more information.

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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