The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says an elderly Aiken County man is now the first person to die with West Nile Virus in South Carolina this year.
A DHEC official said the man, who was not identified, tested positive for the virus infection after being hospitalized with sudden onset of high fever, confusion, and headache. “In all likelihood – like most South Carolinians sickened by this disease in 2012 – he probably contracted the illness after being bitten by mosquitoes in the area near his home,” Riyadh Muhammad, the regional medical director for DHEC Region 5 Public Health said in a statement, “Although this unfortunate death occurred in Aiken County, West Nile Virus could exist wherever mosquitoes live, and West Nile Virus cases have been reported throughout the state this year.”
Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on infected birds. While most people bitten by infected mosquitos do not exhibit any symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus can cause severe complications about 20 percent of the time. Those who do get them may become ill within 2 to 14 days with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, and occasionally nausea and vomiting. Some may have a rash.
“The most important step anyone can take to prevent West Nile Virus infection is to protect against being bitten by a mosquito,” said Dr. Muhammad. “The risk of serious illness is low. Less than one percent of people infected develop potentially fatal infections of the brain or protective membranes covering the brain, known as encephalitis or meningitis. However, if you or someone you care for has a rash, fever, and confusion, especially after mosquito bites, seek medical care promptly.”
DHEC says the virus has been detected in 17 people, three animals, 13 birds and one mosquito pool.