Mosquito season returns to area

Published 12:09 am Sunday, June 8, 2014

NATCHEZ — Two cases of the West Nile Virus have been reported this year in Mississippi, and officials are asking residents to begin preparing for another mosquito season.

The two reported cases were in Newton and Hinds counties, but the cases have not resulted in any deaths according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

The state health department only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public.

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West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne illness that can affect birds, animals and humans.

In its worst cases, West Nile Virus can result in encephalitis or meningitis. In milder cases, it results in nausea, fever, headache, vomiting, muscle weakness and swollen lymph nodes.

Mosquitoes that spread West Nile breed in small, nutrient-rich pools of water that can collect in things such as discarded tires or any other backyard containers.

Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter advised local resident to begin reducing the amount of stagnant water around their properties.

“Mosquitoes don’t breed in running water, it’s all the stagnant water that can be found all over,” Carter said. “Any kind of buckets, plant holders or anything that has standing water needs to be turned over now and through the next few months.”

Carter said it’s tough to tell whether this upcoming mosquito season will be worse than last year, but urged residents not to take any chances.

“A lot of that depends on the environmental conditions we’ll start seeing in the coming weeks and months, but chances are they’ll be here as they always are,” Carter said. “Everyone needs to be prepared now.”

State health department officials recommend residents take appropriate precautions to reduce the risk of contracting the virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses year-round.

Precautions include removing sources of standing water, especially after rainfall, wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, during peak times from dusk until dawn and using a recommended mosquito repellent according to manufacturer’s directions.

Symptoms of the virus 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.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs says the second Mississippi case is a reminder of the importance of preventing mosquito exposures, particularly ahead of the active summer months.

In 2013, Mississippi had 45 West Nile cases and five deaths. In 2012, the state saw 247 West Nile cases and five deaths.

Louisiana State University AgCenter officials are also advising horse owners to take the necessary precautions now to protect their animals against the virus.

The virus is prevalent in Louisiana and can cause death in horses.

Last year, 63 cases of West Nile virus were reported were reported across Louisiana.

LSU AgCenter equine specialist Neely Walker said the disease causes brain and spinal cord infections.

“Currently, there is no specific treatment for West Nile virus, and this disease has a 30-percent mortality rate,” Walker said.

Horses infected with West Nile virus may have a loss of appetite, depression, fever, weakness or paralysis of the hind limbs, muscle fasciculation or muzzle twitching, impaired vision, incoordination, head pressing, aimless wandering, convulsion, inability to swallow, circling, hyper-excitability or coma.