"I can confirm that we have an active case of West Nile Virus in Bolivar County. The virus was confirmed in a lab test from a resident of the city of Cleveland," said Dr. Alfio Rausa, district health officer for the Mississippi Delta Region of the Mississippi State Department of Health. "HIPAA laws and the MSDH policies makes it impossible for me to go into more detail about the patient."
This year Mississippi has seen an increase in the number of cases confirmed to be West Nile Virus; a type of virus believed to be spread when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person.
West Nile Virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda in eastern Africa. It was first discovered in the United States in the summer of 1999 in New York. Since then, the virus has spread throughout the United States.
“Mosquitos carry the highest amounts of virus in the early fall, which is why the rate of the disease increases in late August and early September," said Rausa. "The risk of disease decreases as the weather becomes colder and mosquitos die off."
On Monday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 26 new human case of West Nile virus across the state.
The new cases were reported in Bolivar (1), Calhoun (1), Copiah (2), Forrest (1), Hinds (1), Jackson (2), Jasper (2), Leake (1), Madison (6), Marion (1), Rankin (5), Sunflower (1), Walthall (1) and Yazoo (1) counties, bringing the state total to 140 cases and four deaths.
In 2011, Mississippi had 52 West Nile cases resulting in five deaths. The MSDH only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public.
Although many people are bitten by mosquitos that carry the West Nile virus most do not know they've been exposed. In fact, few people ever develop severe disease or even notice any symptoms at all.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that only about 20 percent of people who become infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever, the more common West Nile disease.
Symptoms of West Nile fever include fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, occasional skin rashes on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands.
It is estimated that approximately one in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will develop a more severe form of disease. These more severe diseases brought on by being bitten by an infected mosquito are known as neuroinvasive disease, such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis.
If contracted, serious illness can occur in people of any age, however people over age 50 and transplant patients are at the highest risk for getting severely ill when infected with WNV.
The symptoms of the more severe diseases include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
Health officials are urging Mississippians to take appropriate precautions to reduce the risk of contracting WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses.
These simple steps can help to reduce your risks: remove sources of standing water, especially after rainfall; install or repair screens on windows and doors; wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, during peak times from dusk until dawn; and use repellents containing DEET, or Environmental Protection Agency registered repellents for use on human skin.
The MSDH has set up a West Nile hotline that can be reached from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. That toll free number is 1-877-WST-NILE.