AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. -- South Carolina has its first West Nile Virus death of the year.

An elderly man from Aiken County died this weekend from the virus.

Statewide there have been 17 human cases of the virus, which is spread by mosquitoes.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control said Monday that the man tested positive for the virus after he was hospitalized for a sudden high fever, confusion and headache.

In all likelihood like most South Carolinians sickened by this disease in 2012 he probably contracted the illness after being bitten by mosquitoes in the area near his home, said Dr. Riyadh Muhammad. 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.

In North Carolina, an elderly man in Wayne County died from the virus in August. There has been one reported case in Mecklenburg County. A reporter from The Charlotte Observer, Elizabeth Leland, is recovering from it.

Leland, 58, said people need to be aware of the virus, which was first detected in the United States in 1999.

I ve always avoided using chemicals in the house and the yard, Leland told the Observer on September 3, but I ve been telling my friends to spray with an insecticide that has DEET.

The virus has been detected in three animals and 13 birds as well.

Mosquitoes get the virus from feeding on infected birds and then spread the virus to people they bite. People bitten by an infected mosquito may become sick up to two weeks later with flu-like symptoms like fever, headache and nausea.

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