West Nile in Mississippi

Four people in Louisiana have already died this year from the symptoms related to West Nile virus. And Mississippi now has 22 confirmed cases of West Nile in humans.

West Nile is a virus spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, and it can infect people, horses, many types of birds, and other animals.

Most people infected have no symptoms at all, or only experience mild ones. But some can come down with the severe and fatal illness known as West Nile encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain.

National health officials say the virus is here to stay and that simple prevention efforts, such as wearing insect repellent, is the best way to manage the epidemic.

"Well some of the things that can be done are to try and control the mosquito population up front. And there are ways of killing larval forms of mosquitoes, but also the adult insects can be killed through spraying programs and so forth. But probably the most important thing is for people to just be alert of the risks," said one health official.

Here are some tips you can take to reduce the risks of contracting West Nile virus.

wtok.com: Extended Web Coverage

West Nile virus Facts

  • The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals.

  • The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in1937.

  • The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people.

How is the West Nile virus Spread?

  • The virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

  • A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus.

  • West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, and no evidence indicates the virus can be spread directly from birds to humans.

  • Only a small population of mosquitoes are likely to be infected and most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.

  • 1 in 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick.

  • 1 in 100-150 who get sick become seriously ill.

  • 3 to 15 percent of those seriously ill die.

Symptoms of the Virus

  • The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 6 days after exposure. People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of severe illness.

  • Milder symptoms include: Slight fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands and/or sometimes a skin rash.

  • Severe symptoms include: High fever, intense headache, stiff neck, and/or confusion.

Protecting Yourself

  • Control mosquitoes from breeding around your home.

  • Wear long and light colored clothing.

  • Use insect repellent products with no ore than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.

  • Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin.

  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

Source: www.vdh.state.va.us contributed to this report

Whenever outside, you should spray insect repellent with deet over your body and your clothes.

You should also try to stay inside at dusk and dawn, which are peak mosquito hours. And you need to remove stagnant water from around your house.

The Meridian area saw another downpour of rain this afternoon, so if you have standing water around you, make sure you empty the containers, to limit the breeding ground for mosquitoes.