JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports one new human case of West Nile virus (WNV), bringing the 2016 state total to five. The reported case is in Lamar County.
So far this year, human cases of WNV have been reported in Hinds, Grenada, Lamar (2), and Rankin counties. The MSDH only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public. In 2015, Mississippi had 38 WNV cases and one death.
Additionally, today the MSDH reports three new travel-associated cases of Zika virus, bringing the 2016 total to 14 in Mississippi. The cases were a resident of Harrison County who recently traveled to Honduras and two Panola County residents who recently traveled to the Caribbean Island of Grenada.
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.
Zika has been seen in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and some Pacific islands for years, but has recently been reported in approximately 50 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.
“It’s important to remember that all of our cases that have been reported in Mississippi are travel related. It is crucial that pregnant women not travel to countries where Zika is actively being transmitted,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “Additionally, West Nile virus continues to be a major health threat in Mississippi. We are now in peak West Nile season, and we advise all Mississippians to continue to take precautions to prevent infection as we move through the late months.”
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.
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.