The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) today confirmed the death of a Hinds County resident from West Nile virus (WNV), the first WNV human death of 2016.

Culex quinquefasciatus/CDC
Culex quinquefasciatus/CDC

“This sadly serves as an important reminder of the severity of West Nile virus, even though most of us will have no symptoms at all or the illness is mild,” said newly named MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “We are currently in peak West Nile season in Mississippi, so all residents should be mindful of protecting themselves, regardless of whether there has been a case reported in your county.”

In addition to the Hinds County death, the MSDH reports two new human cases of WNV in residents of Lee and Marion counties, bringing the 2016 total to 18 in Mississippi.

So far this year, human cases of WNV have been reported in Calhoun, Chickasaw, Copiah (2), Hinds (5), Grenada, Lamar (2), Lee, Leflore, Lowndes, Marion, Perry and Rankin counties. The MSDH only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public. In 2015, Mississippi had 38 WNV cases and one death.

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.