Mississippi’s West Nile Virus season ramping up

New cases of West Nile virus are continuing to pop up across the state of Mississippi.

Officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) have confirmed six new cases of West Nile virus. The reported cases are in Adams, Forrest, Hinds (2), Marion, and Oktibbeha counties.

The new cases bring the state’s total to 16, and so far this year cases have been reported in Adams, Copiah, Forrest, Hinds (6), Itawamba, Marion, Oktibbeha, and Pearl River counties.

West Nile virus is similar to the flu in the way that it has a “season”. The virus’ season typically lasts from July through September. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers warns that even if there is not a case in your area, you need to take precautions.

“We do know that mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus are active throughout the state, so just because a case has not yet been reported in your county of residence does not mean you shouldn’t take precautions against mosquitoes,”  Byers said.

The MSDH suggests the following precautions to protect yourself and your family from mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • Use a mosquito repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient such as DEET while you are outdoors.
  • Remove all sources of standing water around your home and yard to prevent mosquito breeding.
  • Wear loose, light-colored, long clothing to cover the arms and legs when outdoors.
  • Avoid areas where mosquitoes are prevalent.

Byers added that while most people recover without any long-term problems, some develop a more severe infection that can lead to complications and even death – especially those over 50 years of age.

Symptoms of WNV 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.

If you begin experiencing any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

In 2017, Mississippi had 63 WNV cases and two deaths.

For more information on mosquito-borne illnesses, visit the MSDH website at HealthyMS.com/westnile.