State health officials confirmed Friday that the first case of illness from West Nile virus this year.
“An individual on Hilton Head Island has been identified as the first person reported to be sick from West Nile Virus in South Carolina this year,” DHEC said in a statement Friday night.
DHEC said two weeks ago that mosquitoes in Beaufort County had tested positive for the virus and urged people start taking precautions to protect against infection.
“Identifying mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus in our state is not uncommon,” said Chris Evans, a staff entomologist with the DHEC in Friday’s statement. “A positive identification should serve as a reminder of the importance of preventing mosquito bites. It's the most important step you can take to prevent the spread of illness from mosquitoes to humans.”
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According to state epidemiologist Linda Bell, potentially fatal illnesses resulting from West Nile, like encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, are exceedingly rare, happening in less than a percent of the people infected.
The mosquitoes that carry West Nile tend to shy away from light, and are active mostly at night, though they can also be out at dusk and dawn and in shady areas during the day.
The DHEC stresses that the public has an important role in preventing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, and recommends deterring mosquitoes in the following ways:
- Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Repellents help keep mosquitoes from biting.
- Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure.
- Exposure to mosquitoes is most common at night and during the early morning. Some species bite during the day, especially in wooded or other shaded areas. Avoid exposure during these times and in these areas.
- Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes.
- Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, birdbaths, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls.
The Island Packet contributed to this report