RALEIGH — A second person has died from the West Nile virus in North Carolina and state health officials say cases have been reported in three other counties.
The Cabarrus County Health Alliance confirmed Wednesday a 77-year-old woman died after complications from West Nile virus several days ago.
A Wayne County man had died from the illness on Aug. 14.
Other cases have been reported Forsyth, Mecklenburg and Scotland counties.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday there has been a 40 percent increase in cases in the past week, to nearly 1,600. Nearly 70 people have died around the country. The outbreak has been centered in north Texas, but cases have been reported in 43 states.
West Nile is a virus carried by birds and spread to humans through mosquito bites. About 80 percent of those infected have no symptoms.
Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC's Division of Vector-borne Infectious Diseases, said the warm winter, early spring and hot summer in many parts of the country could have played a role in the sharp increase of cases.
Dr. Erin Staples, a CDC epidemiologist, said the lack of cases in North Carolina should not lead to a sense of complacency.
"Just because traditionally you haven't seen it, I can't predict that you won't get large numbers in years to come," Staples said.
Health officials recommend eliminating standing water in places like flower pots, discarded containers, gutters and kiddie pools. People also should keep window screens and panes in good condition. They also recommend people wear long sleeves, pants and socks.
Symptoms include body aches, fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands.