WINSTON-SALEM - Even at their best, mosquitoes are annoying. But this year, they've turned deadly with more than 1,100 cases nationwide and about 40 deaths, including one in North Carolina.
''It is not uncommon to see spikes around the U.S.,'' said Marlon Hunter, Forsyth County's health director.
The mild winter, wet spring and hot summer have raised mosquito populations and as a result the U.S. is seeing its largest outbreak of West Nile Virus.
''The symptoms are usually fever and flu-like symptoms, kind of achy and feeling bad,'' said Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious diseases expert at Wake Forest/Baptist Medical Center.
Most people recover on their own in a few days. But some get an infection of the brain that can be fatal.
''Usually that effects people who have other health problems so other underlying diseases, and the elderly or the very young of age,'' said Ohl. "If you have had a fever and you develop a headache with that fever and it's a fairly severe headache that would be a reason to see a doctor.''
Officials are waiting on tests to see if a Forsyth County man who died last week had West Nile Virus. If that's confirmed, it would be the state's second death from the virus this year. A Wayne County man fell victim to West Nile earlier this month.
Prevention is simple: avoiding mosquitoes and eliminating their breeding grounds
''Get rid of standing water around your home, bird baths and pet dishes,'' said Hunter. ''We want to make sure that we eliminate standing water every two to three days, as quickly as we can after a rain.''
And make sure you use mosquito repellent with DEET in it, or wear long sleeves if you're out when the mosquitoes are most active.
''Most importantly, avoid going outside at dusk and at dawn,'' said Hunter.
And remember that the onset of cooler weather will take care of the mosquitoes.