West Nile virus strikes in North Carolina

By Josh Carpenter

A Kannapolis resident has become the second North Carolina victim of the West Nile virus, according to the Cabarrus County Health Alliance.

Community Relations Director Betty Braxton said Aug. 30 that a 77-year-old woman had died in the last week from complications of the virus.

People older than 50 are more susceptible to contracting the disease, Braxton said, especially those in poor health.

Braxton couldn’t confirm, but said she heard that the victim traveled out of state prior to becoming ill.

The Cabarrus case follows a West Nile related death in Wayne County on Aug. 14.

And health departments in the Charlotte region are urging residents to take caution.

Andy Fair, public information officer for the Mecklenburg County Health Department, said that a case of West Nile virus is suspected in Mecklenburg County.

The person in question, Fair said, traveled outside the state before becoming ill, probably at the end of July or beginning of August.

“We’re unsure if it was contracted outside or inside the state,” Fair said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 40 states have reported cases of West Nile in people, mosquitoes or birds, including 40 deaths.

A press release sent out by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Aug. 29 reported five confirmed cases of West Nile in Cabarrus, Forsyth, Mecklenburg, Scotland and Wayne counties.

It could take as many as 14 days for symptoms to begin developing in a person with West Nile.

The virus could be easily mistaken for flu symptoms, such as fever, headaches or body aches, said Tiffany Spangle, an educator with Lincoln County Health Department.

People are usually infected with the virus between June and September.

Infected mosquitoes transmit the disease. Standing water serves as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Duke Energy encourages homeowners to empty things that may hold standing water, such as flowerpots, gutters, outdoor furniture, boat covers and toys.

In the summer, Duke sprays chemicals on mosquito larvae found along the Lake Norman shoreline.

– Justin Vick contributed to this story.

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