DOBSON — While hundreds of outbreaks of West Nile Virus have been reported across the United States, no cases have surfaced in Surry County this year.
Thomas Williams, media relations specialist with the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, said the last case of the disease reported in Surry County was at least three to four years ago.
Williams said the disease is spread by mosquitoes that have bitten wild birds. Those mosquitoes are the carriers that transmit it to humans.
“West Nile is a cause for concern, but not mania. The reason I say that is that they estimate than less than 1 percent of those with the disease will develop serious illness,” said Williams.
While there are no current cases that Surry County officials are aware of, after hearing about the cases in other parts of the country, the local health department is ramping up educational efforts, Williams said.
The first case of West Nile Virus in North Carolina this year was reported by the Cherokee County Cooperative Extension Service on Aug. 16, although since then two people have died from the condition, including a Forsyth County man who died over the weekend. Multiple media reports have indicated West Nile is suspected in that death, but final results of tests are not yet available.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile Virus is a potentially serious illness that causes severe symptoms include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.
These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. One in 150 people infected with the virus will develop severe illness. People typically develop symptoms between three to 14 days after they are bitten by an infected mosquito.
There have been 693 cases of West Nile Virus reported in 32 states this year.
In giving tips to prevent the disease, Williams said people should wear bug spray that contains DEET while enjoying the outdoors. Also, emptying anything containing standing water around the home is effective in decreasing the number of places where mosquitoes lay their eggs, he said.
“It’s important to remember that mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn,” said Williams.
If someone believes they have the disease, they are urged to seek medical attention. Williams said the only way that cases of West Nile Virus are confirmed is through testing.
Williams said it is important to note that the disease cannot be spread from one human to another.
During the last major breakout of the virus across the United States in 2004, dead birds were brought in for testing, but Williams said that is not the case now.
“If you do find a dead bird, wear gloves before handling the bird, double bag it and throw it away.”
He said to be sure to notify authorities at the Surry County Cooperative Extension Service if a dead bird is found. He said there is no need to track the birds now.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.