West Nile virus is an infectious disease of birds that can also infect humans. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health, West Nile virus may cause flu-like symptoms in humans, such as headache, swollen glands and muscle aches, as well as a rash. Usually West Nile virus only causes mild disease in humans, but in rare cases the virus may cause encephalitis and even death. Elderly people and those with compromised immune systems are most likely to be severely affected by West Nile virus.

Citizens concerned about contracting West Nile virus should avoid mosquito contact by wearing long sleeves and long pants and using a mosquito repellent containing DEET at concentrations of 30 percent or less (10 percent for children). DEET products should be used according to label instructions. People should avoid outdoor activities in the evening, when mosquitoes are most active, and areas where there are a lot of mosquitoes. People should check around their homes and empty any containers holding water such as tires, birdbaths and flowerpots. Screens should be used on doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering homes.

Hunters should take as many of these precautions as possible to avoid mosquito bites. Hunters should not, however, be concerned that handling or eating game will transmit West Nile virus. There is no evidence that West Nile virus is spread in any manner other than a mosquito bite. The Wildlife Resources Commission recommends hunters take normal precautions when preparing and eating game, including wearing gloves and thoroughly cooking meat.

See the Center for Disease Control Web site for more information.