Today the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports two new human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) for 2012.
The new cases were reported in Wayne and Perry counties, bringing the state total to 244 cases and five deaths. This is the highest number of WNV cases ever reported in Mississippi.
Health officials remind all Mississippians that although the weather is colder now, West Nile virus can occur year-round, including the late fall and winter months. Residents are reminded they still need to take precautions to protect themselves.
"In previous years there have been cases reported in November and December, and it should remind us to remain vigilant about protecting ourselves throughout the year," said MSDH Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.
In 2011, Mississippi had 52 WNV cases and five deaths. The MSDH only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public.
Peak season for WNV is July, August, and September in Mississippi, but mosquito-borne illnesses can occur year-round. Mississippians should take appropriate precautions to reduce the risk of contracting WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses: remove sources of standing water, especially after rainfall; install or repair screens on windows and doors; and if you will be in mosquito-prone areas, wear protective clothing (such as long-sleeved shirts and pants) during peak times from dusk until dawn, and use repellents containing DEET, or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered repellents for use on human skin. Always read the manufacturer's directions carefully before you put on a repellent.
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 recommended mosquito repellents, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com/westnile or 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).
Follow MSDH by e-mail and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.
Press Contact: MSDH Office of Communications, (601) 576-7667
Note to media: After hours or during emergencies, call 1-866-HLTHY4U (1-866-458-4948)