West Nile cases confirmed in two counties; mosquitoes carry virus in five more

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The Mississippi State Department of Health reported its second human case of West Nile Virus for 2017 on Wednesday.

The most recent diagnosis was made in a Rankin County resident. Last month, the Department of Health reported Mississippi’s first case of West Nile Virus in a Forrest County resident.

The Department of Health said that the increase in cases means that Mississippians are entering “peak season” for the disease, which is spread by mosquito and more prevalent in the warmer summer months.

“While WNV (West Nile Virus) can occur any time of the year, we are now in peak season when most cases occur. Additionally we continue to identify mosquitoes from many areas in the state that have tested positive for West Nile, so now is time to really take precautions to avoid mosquito bites when going outdoors,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.

In 2016, Mississippi had 43 West Nile Virus cases and two deaths. The Department of Health reports only laboratory-confirmed cases to the public.

But the Department of Health also has confirmed that mosquitoes tested positive for the disease in five other counties that have not yet had a confirmed human case: Clay, Hinds, Lowndes, Madison and Washington.

In previous years, West Nile Virus has been reported from all parts of the state, and the Department of Health stressed that all Mississippians are potentially at risk — not just those who live in the areas where cases are reported.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus 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.

The Department of Health suggests the following precautions to protect from mosquito-borne illnesses: using a recommended mosquito repellent containing DEET while outside, removing all standing water from property, wearing loose, light-colored clothing that covers arms and legs and avoiding areas where mosquitoes are common.