West Nile virus found in birds in Pontotoc, Monroe, Clay counties

No human cases have been reported

yet in Northeast Mississippi.

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

West Nile is making inroads in North Mississippi.

The Mississippi State Department of Health announced Monday that birds had tested positive for the disease in Pontotoc, Monroe and Clay counties. A bird in Benton County tested positive last month.

The rest of Northeast Mississippi should not think they are safe from West Nile, warns Marvin Davis, professor emeritus of pharmacology at the University of Mississippi, who has studied and written about mosquito-borne viruses.

"I would advise people to assume the virus is available in all counties in Mississippi É and behave accordingly," Davis said.

No human cases have been reported yet in Northeast Mississippi. Hinds County has been the hardest hit in Mississippi with a dozen human cases classified as confirmed or probable.

Addressing the virus

County officials with Clay, Pontotoc and Monroe counties said they do not have mosquito control programs in place. However, the municipalities of West Point, Aberdeen and Amory do have ongoing programs.

"I'm sure it will be a topic of discussion in (this) morning's board meeting," said Clay County Chancery Clerk Robbie Robinson.

Monroe County Administrator Sonny Clay said he has been in touch with district health officials and the county is encouraging residents to take precautions around their homes and businesses.

The state health department will offer a mosquito control workshop for elected officials and public workers on Aug. 20 in Starkville.

More than 100 people attended mosquito control seminars in Jackson this past week.

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease that can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. It is transmitted solely by mosquito bites.

Mild cases manifest flu-like symptoms; they are usually never identified as West Nile. In serious cases, it can cause headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. In rare cases, it can result in death.

The presence of the virus in birds is considered an early warning that the virus is in the area. The health department is asking the public to report all dead birds and submit dead crows and blue jays for testing.

Smart precautions include wearing bug spray with DEET and eliminating standing water around homes and businesses, public health officials said.

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