JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - Epidemiologists at the Mississippi State Health Department are keenly aware of all mosquito-borne threats to Mississippians. But unless circumstances change, the public health focus remains on preventing West Nile Virus.
"Historically, we have had one of the higher case rates," said Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. "It is dependent on the year, so it does change year to year."
In 2012, 75% of the West Nile Virus (WNV) cases were reported in five states, and Mississippi was one of the five. But Dr. Byers said his office routinely follows all mosquito borne illnesses.
"We just don't routinely see those right now," he said.
Dr. Byers said he knows, without question, one mosquito transmitting West Nile Virus can cause severe sickness, permanent disability and even death.
"It is neural invasive disease," said Dr. Byers. "Those individuals can present with encephalitis, meningitis. Sometimes it can present as a paralysis. That can be pretty significant for those folks. And we do see deaths."
So prevalent is West Nile in our state, that neurologists at Methodist Rehab have become leading researchers in the United States. After seeing what those specialists see, they strongly recommend never letting down your guard against West Nile.