By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
So far this summer, no cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in Northeast Mississippi.
“Folks shouldn’t get complacent,” said Liz Sharlot, director of communication for the Mississippi State Department of Health. “You have to assume it’s in the environment.”
Since July, 13 people in eight counties have become ill with the mosquito-borne disease, and a Jones County resident has died from the disease this year. In 2010, only eight cases were reported during the entire season, and there were no deaths.
In most cases, West Nile infections are mild and can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, muscle weakness and swollen lymph nodes. In a small number of cases, it can cause an infection of the brain – encephalitis – and central nervous systems – meningitis – which can lead to paralysis, coma and possibly death.
July, August and September are peak months for West Nile Virus, but the virus can strike any time of year.
Mosquitoes and the Mississippi summer go together. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fight back.
Repellent spray with DEET is the most effective against the suckers, along with wearing long sleeves and pants and staying inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are the most active.
Just like sunscreen, one application doesn’t do for all day outdoors, Sharlot said.
“You have to read the label and reapply,” she said.
Many local governments spray to limit mosquito breeding in roadside ditches, Sharlot said.
Picking up trash around your yard, flushing pet bowls every few days and draining any standing water will reduce their opportunities around your home or business.
“Removing standing water is very important,” Sharlot said.
Fight The Bite
IN ADDITION to wearing bug spray and limiting time outside when skeeters are the most active, the Mississippi Department of Health recommends these steps to minimize mosquito habitat.
– Repair failed septic systems.
– Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed.
– Dispose of old tires, cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or other unused containers that can hold water.
– Change the water at least once per week in bird baths, wading pools and other water containers on your property.
– Cover trash containers to keep out rainwater.
– Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains.
– Repair leaky water pipes and outside faucets.
– Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with predatory fish.
– Keep drains, ditches and culverts free of grass clippings, weeds and trash so water will drain properly.