The State department of Health today confirmed the death of a Madison County resident due to the West Nile virus. This is the first case in 2007 and it seems to be much earlier than the year before where a record number 177 people died due to the virus.
Four Mississippians have contracted West Nile this year, while no other state has had a case, according to the Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
West Nile virus is mosquito borne disease and has various forms like West Nile encephalitis or meningitis - the most severe forms of the disease. These severe forms of the virus, transferred primarily through mosquito bites, affect the nervous system and can lead to paralysis, coma or death.
West Nile is most prevalent in mid- to late summer but can occur throughout the year, according to Interim State Epidemiologist Lovetta Brown. West Nile symptoms are often flu like - fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting and muscle weakness. About 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile do not experience any symptoms, according to the CDC.
Some experts blamed the West Nile spike on weather, saying last summer's heat wave may have contributed to mosquito breeding and activity. It was comparatively cool in 2004 and 2005.
Precautions are being taken to prevent a west Nile virus attack. Agressive mosquito spraying programs have been undertaken. If they are spraying the same insecticide, over a period of time, the mosquitoes could become resistant to that insecticide,' said Wayne Thompson, Texas A&M extension agent in Harris County for agriculture and natural resources.
Some health official's worry that cuts in federal funding could lead to more illness. CDC funding for West Nile prevention dropped from $45 million last year to $27 million (20 million) this year, although an added $8 million (5.9 million) was set aside for Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.