Jackson, Miss. - Today the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports two new cases of Zika virus, bringing the 2016 total to 11 in Mississippi. The cases were a resident of Oktibbeha County who recently traveled to St. Lucia and a Neshoba County resident who recently traveled to Jamaica.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that causes severe birth defects in a developing fetus - including brain damage, hearing and vision loss, and impaired growth - if the mother is infected during pregnancy. Zika virus infection can cause a mild illness with symptoms (fever, joint pain, conjunctivitis or rash) lasting for several days to a week, but 80 percent of those infected have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Death is very rare. The MSDH strongly advises pregnant women not to travel to countries where Zika is actively being transmitted.
"It’s important to remember that all of our cases that have been reported in Mississippi are travel related," said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs. "It is crucial that pregnant women not travel to countries where Zika is actively being transmitted."
Zika has been seen in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and some Pacific islands for years, but has recently been reported in approximately 30 countries, mostly in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The breed of mosquito that is spreading Zika - Aedes aegypti - has not been detected in Mississippi since the early 1990s. The MSDH is currently conducting surveillance for Aedes mosquito populations in every county in the state.
Additionally, there have been an unusually large number of mosquitoes in Hinds and Lincoln counties that have tested positive for carrying West Nile virus. Peak season for WNV is typically July, August and September in Mississippi. A total of four human cases have been identified in the state this year in Hinds, Grenada, Lamar and Rankin counties.
"We know that West Nile virus can be found throughout the state, so all Mississippians are potentially at risk, not just the areas where cases or positive mosquitoes have been reported," said Dr. Dobbs.
The MSDH suggests the following precautions to protect yourself and your environment from mosquito-borne illnesses:
- Use an EPA-registered 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.
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Press Contact: MSDH Office of Communications, (601) 576-7667
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