An Aiken County man has been identified as the first person in South Carolina to die from West Nile virus this year, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
“This gentleman tested positive for West Nile virus infection after being hospitalized with sudden onset of high fever, confusion, and headache.” said Dr. Riyadh Muhammad, the regional medical director for DHEC Region 5 Public Health, which covers Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun and Orangeburg counties.
Authorities refused to release the victim’s name, age or the date of the death, citing privacy concerns, but the family of Stacy Furtick, of North Augusta, told the Aiken Standard that he was the victim. He died Aug. 25.
DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said a finding of “West Nile positive” cannot be confirmed until the state laboratory has had enough time to perform verification tests.
Dr. Muhammad said the man probably contracted the illness after being bitten by mosquitoes near his home.
“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,” he said.
As of Sept. 4, 48 states had reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds or mosquitoes.
A total of 2,118 confirmed cases and 92 deaths, have been reported to CDC.
That is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the first week in September since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. More than 30,000 people in the U.S. have been reported as getting sick with West Nile virus since then.
More than 70 percent of the cases have been reported from six states – Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan – and almost 45 percent of all cases have been reported from Texas.