West Nile confirmed in Dare County teen

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 10, 2003

RALEIGH – West Nile Virus (WNV) has been confirmed in a Dare County boy. Fourteen-year-old Parker Sherlock Cartwright is hospitalized in critical condition with encephalitis in Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia.

Although the boy is receiving treatment in Virginia, he appears to have been infected in North Carolina.

He and his family live in Kill Devil Hills.

Parker was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in May 2002 and had been undergoing chemotherapy or that illness, which had weakened his immune system.

West Nile Virus is usually not a serious condition in healthy young people, but Parker’s pre-existing medical condition appears to have played a role in his illness.

&uot;We know that people with weakened immune systems are more likely to be seriously affected by West Nile,&uot; said North Carolina State Health Director Dr. Leah Devlin. &uot;West Nile is usually a very mild infection, and many people may never realize they have the disease.

Unfortunately, in people with weakened immune systems, the disease can be very serious.&uot;

Parker’s parents, Randy and Landra Cartwright agree

&uot;At this time, we’d like to especially reassure all parents and grandparents of our region’s children that we understand and accept that Parker’s current bout with this infection is an extraordinary exception to the circumstances otherwise healthy children would face and an indirect result of his treatment for leukemia,&uot; they said. &uot;We encourage you to allow your children to go about their lives normally and to take the common-sense preventative steps recommended by our public health officials to reduce exposure to mosquitoes.&uot;

Dare County Health Director Anne Thomas says identification of the case in Dare County reiterates the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

&uot;Apply mosquito repellent, wear slacks and long-sleeved shirts, and avoid the outdoors at dusk and dawn,&uot; she said. &uot;You should also reduce mosquito breeding ground by removing standing water.&uot;

This brings the total of North Carolina human WNV 2003 infections to nine, including one reported earlier this week in Lenoir County where a man in his 50’s is hospitalized because of the virus. One of those patients has died; he was also suffering from a compromised immune system.

North Carolina recorded its first two human cases of WNV last year.

North Carolina public health experts say the disease is a possibility any where in the state, because infected birds and horses have been found across the state.

WNV is transmitted by mosquitoes. Wild birds serve as natural hosts for the viruses. Mosquitoes bite the birds and then can transmit the viruses to humans and animals.

A person can’t catch the diseases from another person or an infected animal. Horses can be vaccinated against WNV, but there is no vaccine for humans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. Twenty percent of the people infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever, which is a mild illness with fever, headaches, body aches, an occasional skin rash and swollen lymph nodes. The CDC estimates that only 1 in 150 people infected with WNV will experience severe infection, which is called West Nile encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or meningoencephalitis, a combination of both. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. People over 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease and possible death. The incubation period in humans is usually three to 15 days.

Anyone exhibiting the symptoms listed above should contact his or her health care provider.

Michael F. Easley


Carmen Hooker Odom


State of North Carolina

Department of Health and Human Services

Office of CommunicationDebbie K. Crane

101 Blair Drive, Raleigh, NC


(919) 733-9190

FAX (919) 733-7447