SC's first West Nile death of year reported in Aiken Co. - FOX Carolina 21

SC's first West Nile death of year reported in Aiken Co.

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COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) -

An elderly Aiken County man has become the first West Nile fatality in South Carolina this year, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Monday.

West Nile is a virus that is carried by birds. Humans contract the disease when they are bitten by a mosquito which has fed on an infected bird. Symptoms mimic the flu and include, fever, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, and occasionally nausea and vomiting.

"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," said Dr. Riyadh Muhammad, regional director for DHEC region five. "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."

Muhammad said the risk of serious illness is low, but people should still take steps to protect themselves from mosquitos.

Experts said people should wear an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535. They said people should also wear clothes that reduce skin exposure, ensure windows and doors have tight-fitting screens and eliminate standing water around their home.

DHEC said that 17 people have contracted West Nile this year in South Carolina. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 1,993 people have been infected nationwide this year - a record number since the disease was first found in the U.S. in 1999.

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