FAYETTEVILLE -- Two North Carolinians are now dead from West Nile virus as the number of total cases in the state rose to five, the Department of Health & Human Services said on Wednesday.
Nationally, cases are up 40 percent in the past week with 66 total deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Carl LaVerdiere is a stay-at-home Dad whose youngest child just started kindergarten. He's originally from Maine, and says the mosquitoes and black flies there taught him to guard himself from insect bites long ago. But the outbreak of West Nile has him worried about his children.
"I'm more concerned about the West Nile Virus because the kids are young, they're outside a lot, they can sneak in and out without wearing their protection. Now that we have the "bug force field" (a clip-on insect repellant device), I make them clip one on and turn it on if they're gonna go play outside."
According to the American Mosquito Control Association, there are "Three Ds" to remember when guarding against mosquito bites.
Drain: Empty out water containers at least once per week
Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
Defend: Properly apply an approved repellent such as DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus
According to the CDC, early symptoms of the virus include headaches, nausea, and body aches, and anyone experiencing difficulty should see their doctor. But the chances of contracting a serious disease are actually pretty slim.
"It is very unlikely to be fatal. It's important to note that of all the people that get infected with West Nile Virus, only about 20 percent develop any symptoms at all, and majority of those people develop a mild illness called West Nile Fever. Of the people who get the mild illness, only about 1 in 150 go on to develop the neuro-invasive form of the disease. So infection to the virus is actually quite common. But illness secondary to that virus becomes more rare," said Carl Williams, state public health veterinarian in North Carolina.
However, officials do note that the risk is greater in children, the elderly, and anyone with deficiencies in the immune system.