The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) confirms two new deaths and 12 new human cases of West Nile virus (WNV), bringing the state total to 37 cases and five deaths so far in 2014. The deaths were reported in Lee and Coahoma counties. The new cases were reported in Adams, Carroll, Coahoma, Clarke, Forrest (2), Hinds (2), Jones, Lee, Monroe, and Washington counties.

West Nile virus
Culex quinquefasciatus

So far this year, human WNV cases have been reported in the following counties: Adams (3), Bolivar (1), Carroll (1), Coahoma (1), Clarke (1), Covington (1), Forrest (6), Harrison (1), Hinds (9), Jones (1), Lauderdale (1), Lee (1), Madison (1), Monroe (1), Newton (1), Rankin (4), Yazoo (1), Washington (1), and Wilkinson (1). Five WNV deaths have occurred, in Coahoma, Forrest, Lee, Madison, and Yazoo counties.

West Nile virus is an arthropod-borne virus (arbovirus) most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes. West Nile virus can cause febrile illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).

It was first detected in North America in 1999, and has since spread across the continental United States and Canada.

Most people get infected with West Nile virus by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans and other animals.

In a very small number of cases, West Nile virus has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, and from mother to baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding, according to the CDC.

The MSDH only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public. In 2013, Mississippi had 45 WNV cases and five deaths.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of September 16, a total of 45 states and the District of Columbia have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. Overall, 725 cases of West Nile virus disease in people have been reported to CDC, including 25 fatalities.

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The MSDH is also reporting 1 human case of St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) in a Coahoma County resident.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Saint Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most cases of SLEV disease have occurred in eastern and central states.

Most persons infected with SLEV have no apparent illness. Initial symptoms of those who become ill include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Severe neuroinvasive disease (often involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) occurs more commonly in older adults. In rare cases, long-term disability or death can result. There is no specific treatment for SLEV infection; care is based on symptoms.

There is no vaccine against St. Louis Encephalitis virus (SLEV). Reducing exposure to mosquitoes is the best defense against infection with SLEV and other mosquito-borne viruses.

“This is typically the time of the year when our case numbers rise, given that peak season in Mississippi is July, August, and September. It’s a good reminder that WNV is throughout the state, and all Mississippians should remain vigilant, even with cooler weather,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

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

  • Use a recommended mosquito repellent that contains 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.
  • Travelers to the Caribbean should take precautions against mosquito exposure.