First human cases of West Nile virus in Mississippi

The Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed the state’s first human cases of West Nile virus today.

The seven human cases occurred in: Covington (1), Harrison (1), Lincoln (1), Leflore (1), Rankin (2) and Simpson (1) counties; these numbers include the five suspected cases reported last week by the Mississippi State Department of Health. Of the seven confirmed human cases, two resulted in death - one in Rankin County and one in Lincoln County - according to State Epidemiologist Dr. Mills McNeill.

Dr. McNeill said that health officials are still awaiting final test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado, on three new suspected human cases of West Nile virus. The three new suspected human cases are from Hinds, Holmes and Washington counties. This time last year, Mississippi reported 29 human cases of West Nile virus and one death.

“Our improved statewide surveillance system for West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne viruses has helped us successfully detect these cases,” he said. “Strong working relationships with local physicians and hospitals throughout the state demonstrate an active and successful surveillance system in Mississippi. We know how West Nile is spread, and with the expertise of those who help us track the virus activity, we can locate where it is present in the state.”

Dr. McNeill added that although the Mississippi State Department of Health regularly tests mosquitoes, birds, humans and horses, it is important for Mississippians to continue taking personal precaution measures. “We must remain vigilant with protective measures and keeping our environments mosquito-free,” said Dr. McNeill. “We know that mosquito-borne illnesses are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito; we know West Nile virus is here; and most importantly, we know that all mosquito-borne illnesses are preventable.”

Mississippians can reduce their risk of contracting West Nile virus by taking simple precautions. Such measures: removing sources of standing water; avoiding mosquito-prone areas, especially at night when mosquito activity is highest; wearing protective clothing when in mosquito-prone areas; and using insect repellants that contain DEET on exposed body parts when outdoors.

Symptoms of West Nile virus infection are often mild or flu-like and may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, a rash, muscle weakness and swollen lymph nodes. In a small number of people, infection can result in encephalitis or meningitis which may result in paralysis, coma and possibly death.

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