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Mississippi Counties Stepping Up Fight Against West Nile

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 06 Sep 2012 04:14pm | comments

With more than 100 cases of West Nile virus this year, Mississippi could be on pace to set a record for the number of confirmed infections. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports officials in the county with the most cases are calling on their citizens to help fight the mosquitoes and the virus they carry.

Mosquitoes can spread West Nile Virus to humans with a single bite.

"We are in the middle of one of the worst years ever in Mississippi and across the nation,"

That's Dr. Art Leis (lace) a senior scientist at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson.

Leis says the virus can attack and destroy motor cells in the spinal cord and brain stem, leading to paralysis indistinguishable from polio.

"The public also has to be more aware that this is a very invasive virus. The notion that severe disease is a rare event is foolishness. As of two days ago, over half the cases nationwide were nuro-invasive," Leis said.

Cities and counties across the state are stepping up their anti-mosquito spraying efforts to try and decrease the number bugs.

Rankin County leads the state with 30 confirmed West Nile Cases, and county director of emergency operations Bob Wedgeworth says they are 'double spraying' areas around infection cases.

"Once it has been identified to us by use by the state department of health we will spray it one night ont eh regular route, and then we will come back an additional night and double spray it," Wedgeworth said.

The county meticulously maps where the spray trucks have been with GPS as they try to cover thousands of miles of county road.

Wedgeworth says the fight against the virus is personal...his step-son is one of the more the 100 Mississippians who has caught the virus this year.

"You are talking about a young healthy kid and it shut him down. He was off work for a two days sick as a dog and he will tell you now, 'I thought it was taking me out. He thought he had the flu. Then test results come back and it turns out it was West Nile," Wedgeworth said.

Wedgeworth is quick to point out residents of the county take personal precautions help kill the bugs and prevent the spread of the virus.

4 Mississippians have died from the disease this summer....the record for West Nile virus infects was set in 2002, when 193 caught the virus.

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