Health Officials Report State’s First West Nile Virus Death of the 2022 Season

A micrograph of the West Nile Virus.
Cynthia Goldsmith, P.E. Rollin, USCDCP

An individual from the Midlands region has died from West Nile virus, the first such occurrence in South Carolina this year.

In 2022 to date, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has confirmed 11 human cases of West Nile virus. Nine of the 11 confirmed human cases are from the Midlands region; six of those cases are residents of Richland County, as noted in the Sept. 9 news release about a West Nile virus outbreak in that county. Along with the human cases, West Nile virus has been detected in 5 birds and 38 mosquito samples so far this year.

The risk of serious illness or death from West Nile virus is low. Less than 1 percent of people infected develop a potentially fatal swelling of the brain, known as encephalitis. Most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms. About one in five people infected becomes ill within two to 14 days with symptoms including fever, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, and occasionally nausea and vomiting. They may often experience sensitivity to light and inflammation of the eyelids, and some may have a rash.

“If you develop fever or other symptoms after being bitten by a mosquito, you should contact your health care provider immediately,” said Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina State Epidemiologist.

DHEC stresses the importance of paying attention to the most effective ways to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus:

  • Repellents help keep mosquitoes from biting. Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, 2-undecanone, or IR 3535 according to label instructions.
  • 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.
  • Wearing light-colored clothing to cover the skin reduces the risk of bites.

Additional information about West Nile virus is available at www.scdhec.gov/westnile.