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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 10, 2012

DHEC identifies state’s first West Nile Virus death of the 2012 season

COLUMBIA, S.C.— An elderly Aiken County man has been identified as the first person to die with West Nile Virus in South Carolina this year, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.

“This gentleman tested positive for West Nile Virus infection after being hospitalized with sudden onset of high fever, confusion, and headache.” said Riyadh Muhammad, M.D. and regional medical director for DHEC Region 5 Public Health, covering Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun and Orangeburg counties. “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. 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.”

Dr. Muhammad said that West Nile Virus is a disease of birds transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on infected birds. People bitten by an infected mosquito 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.”

So far this year in South Carolina, West Nile Virus has been detected in 17 people, three animals, 13 birds and one mosquito pool.

DHEC recommends citizens pay attention to the “four Ds” as the most effective ways to prevent WNV:

  • DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Repellents help keep mosquitoes from biting. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.
  • DRESS – Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure.
  • DAWN AND DUSK – Exposure to mosquitoes is most common during the early morning and evening so it is important to wear repellent at that time. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes.
  • DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flowerpots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. If you have a pond, use mosquito fish (available from your local mosquito and vector control agency) or commercially available products to eliminate mosquito larvae.

For more information about WNV, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/westnile and http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.

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For media inquiries:
Jim Beasley – (803) 898-7769
Email - beaslejc@dhec.sc.gov