JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports three new human cases of West Nile virus (WNV), bringing the 2016 state total to 11. The reported cases are in Calhoun, Hinds and Leflore counties.
So far this year, human cases of WNV have been reported in Calhoun, Hinds (4), Grenada, Lamar (2), Leflore, Lowndes 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 two new travel-associated cases of Zika virus, bringing the 2016 total to 16 in Mississippi. The cases were reported in residents of Lafayette and Madison counties who both recently traveled to Nicaragua.
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.
“Although there has been local transmission in Florida, it’s important to remember that all of the 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 Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “Additionally, we are in peak West Nile virus season in Mississippi, and all residents should be mindful of protecting themselves, regardless of whether there has been a case reported in your county.”
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 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.
For more information on mosquito-borne illnesses, visit the MSDH website at HealthyMS.com/westnile and HealthyMs.com/zika.
Follow MSDH by e-mail and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.
Press Contact: MSDH Office of Communications, (601) 576-7667
Note to media: After hours or during emergencies, call 1-866-HLTHY4U (1-866-458-4948)