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Be smart about West Nile virus

It’s that time of year again. Mosquitoes are here and they can carry the West Nile virus.

The state’s first reported case of the virus this year was in Forrest County.

The state epidemiologist, Dr. Paul Byers, said that people throughout the state are at risk of the disease and should be protecting themselves against mosquitoes.

The department reports only laboratory-confirmed cases to the public. In 2016, Mississippi had 43 cases of West Nile virus, including two deaths.

Needless to say, West Nile should be taken seriously. A local firefighter succumbed to the disease a couple years ago.

Most people infected with the virus never show any symptoms. Some develop a flu-like disease. A few come down with encephalitis or meningitis, which can lead to paralysis, coma and even death.

MSDH officials said in a news release that people should be careful and take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes by using repellent containing DEET, minimize outdoor activity between dusk and dawn and eliminate standing water around residences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a few more tips.

• When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors.

• Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside.

There’s no way to avoid mosquitoes altogether, but taking a common-sense approach can reduce the number of West Nile virus cases.