State sees first West Nile case of 2018: Officials weigh in on prevention and control

Staff Writer

The Mississippi State Department of Health announced the state’s first confirmed West Nile Virus case of 2018 Thursday.

The reported case was located in Hinds County. Last year, Mississippi reported 63 West Nile cases, two of which were fatal. The first case was reported in late June.

“Sometimes we see cases occur earlier, sometimes we have later cases that occur, but we know we’re in the right time of the year for sure for West Nile,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “Most of the cases occur in July, August and September going into October.”

Byers said most West Nile cases came in those months, mainly because people were outside more often during the summer months, particularly in the evening and morning hours when mosquitoes are most active.

Symptoms of West Nile include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, muscle weakness and swollen lymph nodes. In more serious cases encephalitis or meningitis can occur, sometimes leading to coma, paralysis or death.

“Especially, with West Nile Fever, the symptoms can be relatively nonspecific, but it can be a bad headache,” Byers said. “It can be a fever. It can be a rash. At this time of year, it’s important to think the potential for West Nile, especially if you have been outdoors and you know you’ve been around mosquitoes.”

Byers said anyone experiencing symptoms should go see their physician so further testing can be done.

He recommended taking precautions to prevent mosquito exposure including staying indoors when mosquitoes were active and using repellent with DEET or other EPA-registered ingredients. He also recommended wearing loose, light-colored, long clothing when outdoors. In addition, he recommended keeping property free of any standing water mosquitoes could breed in. He said the species of mosquito most often carrying West Nile could breed even in small amounts of standing water.

“Anything that they have that can hold water, dump it out, birdbaths, old tires, flowerpots,” said Starkville Street Department Foreman Tony Sykes. “If it can hold water, pour it out, because the mosquitoes can get into it and make baby mosquitoes.”

Sykes said the city of Starkville’s mosquito control regimen consisted of dropping larvicide tablets into standing water during the spring and spraying from a truck during the summer. He said his crew was done with scheduled spraying, but would spray an area if citizens called reporting mosquitoes. If mosquitoes are an issue, Starkvillians and those up to five miles outside city limits can call 662-323-9676.

Sykes said his crew had been called to spray less than normal so far.

“So far it hasn’t been that bad of a year, because my guys (have gone out) less than 10 times already,” Sykes said. “It’s usually more, but they haven’t been calling this year.”

However, Byers said it was still worth remembering and respecting West Nile.

“It’s important for everybody in the state to understand that what this means is that we are now in the part of the year when we’re having active transmission of West Nile,” Byers said. “Regardless of where you live, you need to take precautions to prevent mosquito exposure. That’s how you prevent infection.”