• 70°

West Nile Virus — Don’t let your guard down

Although love bugs are attracting most of our swats right now, let’s not forgot about mosquitoes. The Mississippi Department of Health says four more people were confirmed to have West Nile virus this week, bringing the state’s total this year to 13 cases.

The department said Monday two of the new cases of the mosquito-borne illness are in Forrest County and the others are in Hinds and Rankin counties, The Associated Press reported.

Counties with a single case are Copiah, Jefferson, Jones, Lamar, Leake, Rankin and Smith. Hinds County now has two cases, and Forrest County has four.

In 2018, Mississippi had 50 human cases of West Nile virus, with no deaths. In 2017, the state had 63 cases with two deaths.

Summer may be winding down, but mosquito season is not.  Dr. Paul Byers, state epidemiologist, said most cases occur between July and September. Symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, muscle weakness or swollen lymph nodes.

The state Department of Health recommends avoiding times and places where mosquitoes bite. It also recommends using insect repellent and removing any standing water on your property. Below are a few more tips for reducing your chances of contracting a mosquito-carried virus.

• Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitoes are most active.

• Use an insect repellent such as DEET.

• Repair failed septic systems.

• Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed.

• Dispose of old tires, cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or other unused containers that can hold water.

• Change the water at least once per week in bird baths, wading pools and other water containers on your property.

• Cover trash containers to keep out rainwater.

• Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains.

• Repair leaky water pipes and outside faucets.

• Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with predatory fish.

• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools even if they are not being used.

• Keep drains, ditches, and culverts free of grass clippings, weeds, and trash so water will drain properly.