West Nile Virus prevention

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2019

West Nile Virus is the most common of four mosquito-borne illnesses in the state of Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Health website.

There are no vaccines for West Nile Virus, which means protecting against it involves preventing mosquito bites in the first place. Recommendations for preventing the virus have not changed, said Liz Sharlot, Office of Communications Director for the MSDH via email.

To prevent mosquito bites the MSDH recommends wearing long sleeved shirts and long skirts or pants, avoiding areas with mosquitos in mornings and evenings and using a recommended mosquito repellant, according to the website. Mosquitos typically thrive in small amounts of standing water, so it is also important to reduce all standing water on a property, said Sharlot via email.

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Mosquito Repellents

MSDH recommends using insect repellent with 10 to 35 percent DEET. According to the website, MSDH recommends DEET repellents with 10 percent DEET for children. DEET does have a strong odor and can cause skin irritation, but there are other repellent choices for people who do not want to use DEET, according to the MSDH site.

IR-3535 provides long lasting protection. Picaridin provides long lasting protection similar to a repellent with 10 percent DEET. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus offers similar protection to an insect repellent with 15 to 20 percent DEET, although it should not be used on children younger than 3. Repellents that contain plant oils like citronella, lavender or peppermint have limited effectiveness, so MSDH does not recommend them.

West Nile Deaths

In Mississippi, there were no West Nile related deaths in 2018, but there were two deaths in 2017 and two in 2016, according to the MSDH website.

It is difficult to draw conclusions or determine trends about West Nile related deaths because of the small number of deaths and the variability in the number of cases and the number of deaths, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byer via email.

“What we can say is that West Nile virus infections occur in Mississippi every year, some people will get severely ill and in some cases it can lead to death, unfortunately,” Byer said via email.

One in 150 people infected with West Nile Virus develop a neuroinvasive disease that can lead to encephalitis or meningitis, which can result in death, said Byer via email. Age and pre-existing conditions determine the severity of an infection, Byer said via email, with neuroinvasive disease seen most commonly in people older than 50.

Fifty human cases of West Nile Virus were reported to the MSDH in 2018 and one of those cases was in Pearl River County, according to the MSDH website. There were 63 reported cases in 2017.

Two cases of zika virus, another mosquito born illness, were reported in 2017 in Warren County, but no cases were reported in 2018, according to the MSDH site.

“There is no transmission of Zika in Mississippi, however there are still parts of the world where Zika is being transmitted, so pregnant women should not travel to areas with ongoing Zika,” Byer said via email.