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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

October 4, 2002

First Human Case of West Nile
Confirmed in Mecklenburg County 

Charlotte, NC – The Mecklenburg County Health Department is currently investigating the first human case of West Nile in the County. Communicable Disease Control nurses are collecting patient history—including travel history, from an individual at a local hospital who has tested positive for West Nile. The patient is reportedly being sent home from the hospital tomorrow.

This patient was admitted to the hospital with a fever and a viral syndrome just over a week ago. This same patient had also received a blood transfusion during a recent surgery unrelated to West Nile, raising the possibility of transfusion associated West Nile infection. According to Health Department Medical Director Dr. Stephen Keener, a blood supply investigation is also being conducted.

The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, in collaboration with blood collection agencies and state and local health departments, continue to investigate WNV infections in recipients of blood products and organ transplantation. CDC has received reports from 10 states of 15 patients with confirmed West Nile infection diagnosed after receiving blood products within 1 month of illness onset. It is likely that not all of the 15 patients were infected via blood products; all lived in areas with active West Nile virus activity and thus may have been infected via mosquito bites.

So far this year there have been 2,631 human cases of West Nile and 136 deaths in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The first human case of West Nile in North Carolina was confirmed by state laboratory tests on September 18. That patient was an 80-year old man from Vance Count, North Carolina.

People older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease. Most West Nile encephalitis infections are mild. Symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More severe infection might be marked by headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and, on rare occasions, death. The incubation period in humans is usually three to 15 days. Supportive therapy often involves hospitalization, intravenous fluids, airway management, and prevention of secondary infections. Anyone who has been bitten by a mosquito and is exhibiting the symptoms listed above should contact his or her health care provider.

Those in these highest risk groups should take particular caution to limit their exposure to mosquito bites. Long sleeves and long pants should be worn outdoors, as should mosquito repellants containing DEET. Activity during the early morning and at dusk should be limited, as this is when mosquitoes are most active, too. Property owners should keep outdoor water containers like buckets, old tires or animal drinking bowls emptied or full of fresh water in order to keep mosquitoes from breeding in them.

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Media Contact: D.C. Lucchesi 704-432-0344 or

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