The Department of Health reports five new human cases of West Nile Virus, bringing the state total to 41 for the year.

The new cases are in Clarke, Hinds, Lauderdale, Monroe and Yazoo counties. Last week, the Department of Health reported that two people had died of the virus.

August and September are peak season for West Nile Virus, and the number of infections typically skyrockets during those months.

But West Nile seems to have a firmer grip on the state in 2017 than it has in past years. By Aug. 29, 2016, Mississippi had only seen 15 total human cases. Ultimately, the Department of Health reported 43 cases and one death last year. In 2015, the Department of Health reported only 38 cases and one death.

The Department of Health reports only laboratory-confirmed cases to the public.

So far this year, cases have been reported in Bolivar, Clarke, Clay, Covington, Forrest, Hinds, Humphreys, Jones, Lauderdale, Leake, Leflore, Lincoln, Lowndes, Madison, Monroe, Noxubee, Perry, Rankin, Scott, Wilkinson, and Yazoo counties. Two deaths have been reported in Forrest and Humphreys counties.

In previous years, West Nile Virus has been reported from all parts of the state, and the Department of Health stresses 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.

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Larrison Campbell is a Greenville native who reports on politics with an emphasis on public health. She received a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.Larrison is a 2018 National Press Foundation fellow in public health, a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts fellow in health care reporting and a 2019 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow.