RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The first death associated with West Nile Virus in North Carolina so far year this year has been reported Friday, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

NCDHHS did not provide further information, including the patient’s location, to protect their family’s privacy.

“This is a tragic reminder that these infections, though relatively rare, can be fatal,” said Michael Doyle, State Public Health Entomologist.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after NCDHHS warned that neuroinvasive West Nile Virus activity was increasing across the state.

On Sept. 19, NCDHHS said four neuroinvasive cases of the virus have been reported in several parts of the state so far this year. They said this was double the average number of serious cases reported by the end of August each year, which was two.

Each of the four cases were reported in Durham County, Cumberland County, Mecklenburg County and New Hanover County.

As of Sept. 30, NCDHHS says the tally is up to nine serious cases of West Nile Virus this year, with more being investigated:

  • Wake County (1)
  • Durham County (1)
  • Cumberland County (2)
  • Mecklenburg County (2)
  • New Hanover County (1)
  • Martin County (1)
  • Catawba County (1)

Preventing the virus

Health officials say fall is the time of year when most cases of mosquito-borne illnesses are reported.

They’re encouraging people to take the following precautions:

  • Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside in areas where mosquitoes might be present.
    • Use caution when applying to children. Click here for repellants that will work for you and your family.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside. Or keep windows and doors closed and use air conditioning if possible.
  • Reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.
  • If you think you or a family member might have WNV disease, talk with your health care provider.

What if I get the virus?

According to a release, the majority of those infected with West Nile Virus usually experience no symptoms.

If they do, the release says it’s typically a mild, flu-like illness, with 20 percent of people developing a fever with other symptoms like headache, body aches, joint paint, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash.

Health officials say only about one percent of infections are serious or neuroinvasive — with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues). In some cases, they say the neuroinvasive virus could lead to death.