JACKSON • The Mississippi State Department of Health has recorded the first human case of West Nile virus so far this year.
The state health lab confirmed the mosquito-borne virus in a Smith County resident. In 2018, the first human case was also reported in mid-July. In all, there were 50 confirmed cases and no deaths last year. Regardless of the location of confirmed cases, state health officials stress that the virus exists in every corner of the state.
“All Mississippians need to act now to reduce their risk of infection regardless of where they live in the state,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “Most cases occur from July through September, so this is to be expected.”
Mississippi is not alone. Through July 9, the Centers for Disease Control reported 39 West Nile cases in 10 states spread across the country from Arizona to New Jersey.
Between 1999 and 2018, the virus has sickened people in every state except Hawaii, according to CDC data. Mississippi is one of seven states with an average annual incidence rate above 1 case per 100,000 people. South Dakota has the highest average annual incidence with 3.48 cases per 100,000; Mississippi averages 1.31 cases per 100,000 annually.
Symptoms of WNV infection are often mild and may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, a rash, muscle weakness or swollen lymph nodes. In a small number of cases, infection can result in encephalitis or meningitis, which can lead to paralysis, coma and possibly death.
“While most infected people recover without any long-term problems, some develop a more severe infection that can lead to complications and even death – especially in those over 50 years of age,” Byers said.