The state of Mississippi has confirmed four new cases of West Nile virus, bringing the total number of cases for 2015 to 11. The Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed on Monday cases of West Nile in Forrest, Hinds, and Rankin counties, with Rankin County being home to two of the four new cases.
The counties of Rankin and Hinds now have three cases of West Nile virus each. Forrest County has seen two cases, while Adams, Covington, and Simpson counties have all experienced a single case of the virus. Last year, the state of Mississippi had 43 cases of West Nile virus, resulting in seven deaths. There are no reported deaths from the 11 confirmed cases thus far in 2015.
West Nile virus first appeared in the United States in 1999 in the New York City borough of Queens. How the disease made its way to the U.S. is unknown, but it’s believed that an infected bird or mosquito brought it stateside. Since 1999, deaths from West Nile virus have been reported in every state with the exception of Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Most instances of West Nile virus result in a mild fever, headache, nausea, muscle weakness, and a rash, most of which are manageable, with some even going unreported. However, in some cases West Nile may lead to encephalitis or meningitis, which can cause paralysis, coma, and even death.
In addition to the growing number of cases in Mississippi, the year’s first case of West Nile in New York City was confirmed on Sunday after a Brooklyn man was hospitalized with viral meningitis. Other parts of the country are also starting to see signs of West Nile virus, either in the form of mosquitoes or infected animals.
August and September are considered the peak time of year for West Nile virus infections, making it important for people to be vigilant of the threat. The Mississippi State Department of Health has advised people to use mosquito repellent with DEET when outdoors, remove standing water to prevent mosquito breeding, and wear light and loose clothing that covers one’s arms and legs.