Don’t ease West Nile precaution, state urges

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2005

Even though the number of infected people is down this year,health officials are cautioning state residents not to relax ontheir preventative measures.

“We’re actually getting into the peak of our West Nile season,”said Dr. Mills McNeill, state epidemiologist for the Department ofHealth.

As of Aug. 8, this year has produced four human cases of thedeadly virus, down from 17 cases this time last year, McNeill said.There have been no deaths this year.

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There have also been 15 dead birds infected with WestNileconfirmed throughout the state. There were 32 confirmed reportsthis time last year, he said.

“I think when you combine the low number of human and bird casesit’s very encouraging,” McNeill said. “We would hasten to add thatthis is not a cause for us to stop using our protectivemeasures.”

August and September are the peak months for the mosquito-bornevirus. However, human cases were confirmed through October lastyear.

Human cases have been confirmed in Hinds, Jones, Pike and Rankincounties. A dead bird that tested positive for the virus has beenfound in Lincoln County.

“One for the dangers that we face in terms of reporting is thatwe wouldn’t want to imply that because a bird has not been foundWest Nile is not there. We believe West Nile exists throughout thestate,” McNeill said.

The best preventative steps are those designed to protectagainst mosquito bites, he said, because mosquitoes transfers thevirus from birds to humans.

McNeill recommends avoiding being outdoors at dawn and dusk,when mosquitoes are most active, when possible. Other tips includewearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, using mosquito repellent tomanufacturer’s specifications, eliminating standing water aroundthe home as a potential breeding site and repairing torn or brokenwindow screens.

For more information on West Nile see the Health Department’sWeb site at