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Mosquito-borne Disease Risk Increased by Recent Floods


The water from the recent floods along the Mississippi are continuing to recede. The standing water left behind provide perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of West Nile Virus (WNV) and other mosquito-borne illness.

One week ago, Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reported the state’s first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) of 2011. At this time, the Tallahatchie County case is the only confirmed case. Mississippi reported eight cases in 2010 and 53 in 2009. MSDH notes the case number from previous years are not an indicator for the 2011 WNV season.

Neighboring state of Tennessee had 4 confirmed human cases of WNV in 2010 and 8 in 2009.

The peak season in southern states for the mosquito population is May through October. Eliminating standing water near your home is one of the best ways to decrease the mosquito population. Remove old tires, buckets, flower posts, etc which can hold rain water and provide a breeding area for mosquitoes.

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Prevention is the first line of defense from mosquitoes, West Nile Virus, and other diseases transmitted by mosquito bites. Along with elimination of standing water, exposure to mosquito bites can be reduced by remembering mosquitoes are most active and therefore most likely to transmit WNV at dawn and dusk.

Reduce your risk of mosquito bites by reducing time spent outdoors at dawn and dusk. If you must go outside during at this time of day, use insect repellent or wear long sleeves, long pants and socks to reduce exposed skin.

  1. Insect repellents containing either DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 are recommended, but should be used according to guidelines for their use.
  2. Neither DEET nor Picaridin should be used on infants younger than two months old.
  3. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children younger than two years of age.
  4. DEET at 30 percent concentration is the maximum level recommended for children and infants over two months old.
  5. None of these products should be applied around the mouth or eyes.
  6. Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus may include fever, head and body aches, and usually last only a few days. The virus cannot be spread from one person to another.

About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

Persons with medical concerns should see a medical provider. Testing is available for West Nile Virus infection.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mississippi Department of Health (May 24, 2011)
Tennessee Department of Health
US Environmental Protection Agency