Death of Kannapolis woman from West Nile prompts new concerns | Health
KANNAPOLIS - Cabarrus County and Mecklenburg County are two of five counties in North Carolina where there have been confirmed cases of the West Nile virus. The state department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday, there have been two North Carolina deaths from the disease in August.
The Cabarrus Health Alliance told WBTV, an elderly woman in Kannapolis died within the last 8 to 10 days.
Officials are investigating whether the 77-year-old woman traveled recently, or if she was infected locally. The woman did have other health issues, according to local officials.
The woman's death has triggered more calls to the Cabarrus Health Alliance from residents who want to know what to do about mosquitoes.
Chrystal Swinger is the expert, and she says the most important message she has is for people to understand that mosquitoes breed in standing water. Things like untrimmed tires, birdbaths, even potted plants can create the perfect environment for breeding mosquitoes.
"Dump out standing water because that's where they breed, dump outstanding water, that's really the best defense," Swinger told WBTV.
She also responds to calls across the county and sometimes uses a light trap. The trap uses heat and a small light from a battery to attract mosquitoes, then they are pulled down into a collection net by a fan. On a recent night Swinger collected more than 300 mosquitoes in one trap, including several of the species known to carry the West Nile virus.
"The Tiger mosquito, it only travels about one hundred yards from where it breeds so, and it's going to take the first warm blooded mammal that comes along, and it's going to bite all times during the day," Swinger added.
Confirmed cases have been reported in Cabarrus, Forsyth, Mecklenburg, Scotland and Wayne counties.
Health officials also offered some advice, "While the Division of Public Health has only confirmed cases of West Nile in these five counties, we want to encourage everyone to protect themselves, especially at this time of year, when mosquitoes are most active," said State Health Director Dr. Laura Gerald. "West Nile, and other mosquito-borne illness, can occur in any county in North Carolina."
Gerald said residents and visitors should take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illness, including regular use of insect repellant and eliminating potential breeding sites around homes and businesses.
About 80 percent of people infected with West Nile will not show any symptoms at all. Approximately 1 in 5 people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Less than 1 percent will develop a serious neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).
As of August 28, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 48 states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 1,590 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 66 deaths, have been reported to CDC.