Today, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports the state's first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) for the summer in Harrison County. MSDH also reports a Hinds County case that occurred in January but was only recently confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state's total number of human cases for 2008 was 65 with three resulting in death. Although these numbers are lower than the previous year, they are not an indicator for the coming year.
The MSDH conducts statewide mosquito testing with its most intensive surveillance during the peak WNV mosquito reproduction months of July, August and September. It is important to remember that mosquito-borne diseases, including WNV, occur statewide and throughout the year.
"West Nile virus season is here and it is important that all Mississippians take steps to protect themselves and their family members from mosquito-borne diseases, including West Nile virus," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Mary Currier.
Dr. Currier encourages Mississippians to take the following precautions to reduce the risk of contracting WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses: remove sources of standing water, avoid mosquito-prone areas, especially between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active; wear protective clothing (such as long-sleeved shirts and pants) when in mosquito-prone areas; and apply a DEET-based mosquito repellent according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Symptoms of WNV infection are often mild and may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, a rash, muscle weakness or swollen lymph nodes. In a small number of cases, infection can result in encephalitis or meningitis, which can lead to paralysis, coma and possibly death.
For more information on WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses, a checklist to reduce the mosquito population in and around homes, and a brochure on WNV call the WNV toll-free hotline from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1-877-WST-NILE (1-877-978-6453).