The first human case of West Nile virus in South Carolina this year was reported on Hilton Head Island.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control found that a few groups of mosquitoes on Hilton Head tested positive for the virus, the department announced in a June 23 news release. The state announced first infected human on Friday.
Symptoms of the virus can vary and some affected individuals may not even experience any symptoms, according to DHEC.
“If you develop a fever or other symptoms after being bitten by a mosquito, you should contact your health care provider,” said Dr. Linda Bell, SC State Epidemiologist. “Most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms. ... The risk of serious illness such as encephalitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain, occurs in less than one percent of people infected.”
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Some people will experience minor or moderate symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, according to a DHEC release. These people likely will have a full recovery, but fatigue and weakness could last for weeks or months.
Still fewer people will experience severe symptoms. Less than 1 percent of people who are infected will develop a serious neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis, according to the release. The symptoms of neurological illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or paralysis.
“The mosquito that carries this virus is usually active at night but can also be active at dusk and dawn and in shady areas during the day,” DHEC’s staff entomologist Dr. Chris Evans said. “As the state’s public health agency, we partner with cities and counties across the state to help trap and identify mosquitoes carrying diseases that can be spread to humans.
“The virus actually starts with a bird,” Evans said. “It spreads when a mosquito bites a bird that has the virus in their blood. The mosquito then can spread the virus to other birds, animals or people, when it bites during feeding.”
“We have strategically applied public health insecticides in Beaufort County” said Gregg Hunt, director of Beaufort County Mosquito Control. “Our trucks operate during nighttime hours when these mosquito species are most active. The insecticide that we use is very effective, and was selected because it should have a quick knockdown.”
DHEC recommends some ways to protect yourself against mosquitoes and West Nile virus.
- Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR 3535.
- Wear clothes that cover exposed skin; light-colored clothing is best.
- Avoid skin exposure especially at night or in the early morning, when mosquitoes are most active. Also avoid exposure in wooded or shady areas.
- Check that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes.
- Eliminate areas where standing water can accumulate on your property, including flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, birdbaths, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls.
- Reporting dead birds in the area can help state and county authorities keep track of the virus. To learn how to report a dead bird, visit scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/ReportIt/ReportDeadBirds.
- To learn more about mosquitoes, visit scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Insects/Mosquitoes.
- To learn more about West Nile virus, visit scdhec.gov/westnile or cdc.gov/westnile/faq/genquestions.html.