The Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) has reported the first case of West Nile Virus found in DeSoto County for 2017.
The Department of Health, as a matter of policy, does not identify those who are reported to have the virus, but did state that the latest reports from Lee and DeSoto counties bring to 47 the number of reported incidences of West Nile Virus in Mississippi this year.
Two deaths from the virus have been reported, one each in Forrest and in Humphreys counties.
Eight of the 47 cases have come in Hinds County and another six were in Rankin County.
The total of 47 is four more than for the entire 2016 year, a year that also saw two victims die from West Nile.
While West Nile Virus can have serious consequences, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto Chief Medical Officer Dr. JoAnn Wood said most people who contract the virus will never know they have it.
“Often, you have no symptoms and you do just fine and never know you even got infected with the virus,” Wood said. “West Nile has been in the United States since at least 1999 when it was identified in New York and is now in all of our states and also in Canada. I find that some people confuse it with the Zika virus, which is a completely different virus.”
Wood said the West Nile Virus is the most common mosquito-borne virus found in the United States, adding that while most people won’t even know they have it, West Nile can have serious consequences to a small sampling of people.
“It can be extremely severe, but only about one in 250 people who actually have the virus develop something that serious,” Wood said.
Health officials say, for that small sampling of patients, infection can result in encephalitis or meningitis, which can lead to paralysis, coma and possibly death.
However, most people who get West Nile will only get mild symptoms of fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, a rash, muscle weakness or swollen lymph nodes.
Prevention measures for West Nile, according to MSDH, include using mosquito repellant with DEET when outdoors, removing all sources of standing water around your house to prevent mosquito breeding, wearing loose, light-colored, long clothing to cover the arms and legs when outdoors and avoiding where mosquitoes are prevalent.
The peak of the West Nile season in Mississippi is between July and September, so Wood said the case reported in DeSoto County fits that timeline.
“It tends to show up in late August or early September, so it’s right on time,” Wood said.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.