Five additional human West Nile cases in Mississippi

Published 12:19 am Sunday, August 6, 2006

Five additional human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Mississippi — three in Forrest County and two in Lauderdale County.

The state Department of Health said the new cases increased the total cases reported in Mississippi to 17, with two resulting in death. This time last year, Mississippi reported nine human cases and no deaths.

The virus is carried primarily by birds but can be transmitted by mosquitoes to humans, horses, and some other animals. The first documented case of the disease in the United States occurred in New York in 1999, and it has since spread westward into nearly every state.

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Health officials say Mississippi’s West Nile season usually peaks in July, August and September.

“Now is the time for Mississippians to fight the bite and remember to take simple steps to reduce their risk of contracting West Nile virus,” said Dr. Mills McNeill, state epidemiologist.

He said steps that can help reduce the risk include removing sources of standing water; avoiding mosquito-prone areas, especially at night; wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, when possible; and applying a mosquito repellent.

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

On the Net:

Mississippi Department of Health site: