County man state’s second WNV death

Published 8:00 pm Friday, August 24, 2012

A 78-year-old Lincoln County man was confirmed Thursday as Mississippi’s second death this year due to the West Nile virus, officials said.

     Leonard Roberts died Saturday evening in the Intensive Care Unit at King’s Daughters Medical Center, said Lincoln County Coroner Clay McMorris. McMorris said test results for the West Nile virus came back Thursday.

     “We were notified today after health department tests and it was confirmed as West Nile,” McMorris said.

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     McMorris said Roberts had been sick for a while, but doctors had been unable to determine a cause. He had been in the hospital since Aug. 13.

     Denise White, Roberts’ niece, said her uncle had not been feeling well for about six months, but family members thought that may have been related to his age.

     “He didn’t like going to the hospital,” White said.

     However, his illness got to the point where it was necessary to go. White said there was no way to know when Roberts was bitten by the mosquito that led to his contracting the virus.

     Private funeral services for Roberts were held earlier this week.

     White encouraged people to take precautions against mosquitoes and the possibility of West Nile virus.

     “It’s scary,” she said.

     The state’s first West Nile virus related death this year was in Smith County.

     In addition to the state’s second death, Mississippi Department of Health officials reported nine new human cases of West Nile virus. Included in those totals were one each from Lincoln, Lawrence, Copiah and Smith counties, two in Hinds County and three in Rankin County.

     Thursday’s report brings to five the number of cases reported in Lincoln County this year.

     Statewide this year, there have been 85 cases reported and two deaths.  Health department officials said that is the greatest number of cases reported by the end of July since 2002.

     In 2011, Mississippi had 52 reported WNV cases and five deaths.

     “Regardless of the specific county reports, West Nile virus is throughout the entire state at this point, and we still have another month or more of peak season,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, MSDH epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist in a press release. “It’s extremely important to protect yourself and your home environment from West Nile virus and all mosquito-borne diseases.”

     Peak season for WNV is July, August, and September in Mississippi, but mosquito-borne illnesses can occur year-round, health officials said.

     Symptoms of WNV infection 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.

     Precautions to reduce the risk of contracting West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses include removing sources of standing water, especially after rainfall; installing or repairing screens on windows and doors; and if you will be in mosquito-prone areas, 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 the manufacturer’s directions.

     “The MSDH has been continually working with community leaders and residents to promote protection and awareness of the dangers of West Nile virus,” Dobbs said.