The mosquito-bourne West Nile virus has claimed its first victim in South Carolina. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed Monday that the victim was an elderly man from Aiken County. “We at DHEC sadly have announced the fact that… he did test positive through our bureau of laboratories for West Nile virus,” DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said, “He becomes the first case in South Carolina of a person to die with the West Nile virus in his system.”
The man, whose identity was not released by the agency, tested positive for the virus after being hospitalized with a sudden high fever. Officials say the man was likely bitten by mosquitos near his home.
Beasley says mosquitos are prevalent throughout the state, especially this time of year. He says people should take a few precautions to minimize their exposure to mosquito bites. “Wear an insect repellant that contains deet, or any of the other effective mosquito repellents. Dress appropriately (and) wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure. Limit exposures at dawn and dusk because those are the times of day when mosquitos are most active.”
Beasley says mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing or stagnant water. So, in order to limit their opportunities to reproduce, homeowners should make sure their yards are free of any receptacles or areas that may hold water. “If you have tarp, an old toy, an old tire, or anything that collects water and stagnating, that’s a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Tip it, drip it, and let it dry out and that helps slow the spread of mosquitoes.”
DHEC reports that West Nile has so far been detected in 17 people, 3 animals, and 13 birds in South Carolina this year. Mosquitos get the virus from feeding on infected birds and then spread it to people or other animals they bite.