First West Nile case reported in Warren County

Published 11:29 am Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Warren County’s first confirmed case of the West Nile virus since 2007 was reported Monday.

State officials declined to release information about the infected person, and River Region Medical Center had no record of a patient with the virus, said hospital spokesman Allen Karel.

“It does not appear that we have treated anyone for West Nile,” Karel said.

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The local case of West Nile was one of 10 new cases reported in the state Monday, bringing the state total for the year to 95. In 2011, the state had 52 confirmed cases of West Nile, according to the Mississippi Department of Health.

“It’s on track to be the worst year since 2006,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs with the state health department.

In 2006, 184 confirmed cases of West Nile, including 14 deaths, were reported, but the record year was 2002 with 193 cases, including 12 deaths, according to health department data.

The worst year in Warren County was 2006 with four reported cases. The last time a Warren County resident died of the virus was 2005.

The strongest months in Mississippi for West Nile are July, August and September, but mosquito-borne illnesses may occur all year because of the climate, Dobbs said. Autumn is especially troubling because people are spending more time outside during prime mosquito-feeding hours, he said.

For example, he said, high school football draws thousands of spectators across the state every Friday around dusk, which is a peak time for mosquitoes.

“It’s a worrisome time in that regard,” Dobbs said.

Symptoms of a West Nile infection are often mild and may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, a rash, muscle weakness or swollen lymph nodes, but about 80 percent of people never know they are infected, Dobbs said.

In a small number of cases — about one in 150 — infection can result in encephalitis or meningitis, which can lead to paralysis, coma and possibly death.

The best way to avoid becoming infected with the virus is to avoid mosquitoes, health department officials have said.

Some tips include removing sources of standing water, especially after rainfall, installing or repairing screens on windows and doors and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants during outside activity from dusk until dawn. Mosquito spraying by cities and counties alleviates some disease-carrying mosquitoes, but caution is still required, Dobbs said.

“Certainly that can’t reach every nook and cranny of the state, and people need to make sure they do the best for themselves,” he said.