Second Mississippi Death Linked To West Nile

Published: Aug. 13, 2002 at 10:07 PM CDT
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A second death in Mississippi has been linked to the West Nile virus, and health officials now say there are 48 cases in the state.

The latest death, announced Tuesday, was recorded in Madison County. Officials previously had announced a death in neighboring Hinds County.

Hinds County has 20 cases of West Nile, the most in the state. The county with the second most is Pike in south Mississippi, with five cases. Rankin County, next to Hinds and Madison in the central part of the state, has four cases.

"Hinds has the most number of cases, but that's to be expected because it has the largest population density,'' said NancyKay Wessman Sullivan, a health department spokeswoman.

The 48 cases in Mississippi give the state a case rate of 1.6 per 100,000. By comparison, during an outbreak of St. Louis encephalitis in 1975, one out of every 1,000 people contracted the illness.

Mississippi has two additional epidemiologists on loan from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help with the outbreak, Sullivan said. The Department of Health gets its next batch of test results back on Thursday, she said.

The Mississippi deaths bring to nine the number of West Nile-related fatalities nationwide. Seven have died from West Nile in Louisiana, where at least 85 people have contracted the virus. More than 135 people are infected nationwide.

"We do expect that we'll continue to see additional cases,'' Sullivan said.

On Monday state officials announced a "Fight the Bite'' campaign to spread awareness of the virus. Officials say:

  • Avoid mosquitoes when possible.
  • Use mosquito repellent with the chemical DEET.
  • Wear long-sleeved clothing outdoors, especially at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Eliminate pools of standing water.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is seeking federal money to increase mosquito eradication around the state, said MEMA executive director Robert Latham. He said the state needs $3.5 million to $5 million for that effort.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove on Friday declared an emergency that allows the state to apply for federal dollars.