The first human case of the West Nile virus reported in Mississippi was confirmed Friday. State health officer Ed Thompson says infected individual, an unidentified middle-aged resident of Hinds County, is hospitalized and recovering.
West Nile can cause deadly brain inflammation in humans and animals. The disease was earlier reported in horses and birds.
The virus, first identified in Uganda in 1937, was detected in the Western Hemisphere in 1999. It is spread by mosquitoes that become infected when they feed on infected birds.
Mississippi health officials are using a statewide screening program to monitor the virus. A network of hospitals statewide shares information with the department weekly by collecting blood and testing for the presence of mosquito-borne viruses.
In addition to the West Nile virus, officials also screen for other mosquito-borne viruses including LaCrosse encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and eastern equine encephalitis.
The West Nile virus tends to be fatal in birds, but only a small percentage of infected horses get sick. While there is a West Nile vaccine for horses, no vaccine exists for humans.
Here are some tips to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of West Nile virus:
- Remove any standing water where mosquitos breed; things like flower pots, dog dishes, or buckets.
- Wear insect repellent with the ingredient DEET. The concentration should be 20 to 30 percent for adults, 10 percent for children.
- Don't wear perfume or scented cosmetics or lotions outside.
- Keep covered with longs sleeves & pants.
- Avoid mosquitos when they're most active at dawn and dusk by staying indoors.
For more information on the West Nile virus, check out these websites: