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West Nile Virus Infections Increase in Mississippi

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 10 Aug 2011 05:16pm | comments

West Nile Virus has claimed the life of one Mississippian so far this summerand health officials are warning Mississippians to protect themselves against the potentially deadly disease. MPB's Jeffrey Hess talks with one Mississippi who survived the virus.

"I was petrified because all they said in the news was they would report if an elderly person passed away," said Leslie Berryhill.

That's Leslie Berryhill explaining her reaction when she learned she had West Nile virus in the Summer of 2008.

Berryhill, who is an avid runner, noticed something was wrong because she was very tired and had frequent headaches.

"I had a terrible rash down the entire back side of my body. It started from the back of my neck and went all the way down to my ankles," Berryhill said.

She learned she had West Nile after attempting to donate blood...A visit to the doctor led to a round of steroids to help her fight the virus, and a long six months before she felt normal again.

University Medical Center Dr. Skip Nolan says Berryhill's case is typical of West Nile cases because most people either show no symptoms or have a very mild, flu-like reaction to the virus.

"Rarely, people have a more sever infection where it affects the central nervous system and they get something like meningitis. Or an inflammation of the brain called encephalitis. And that is the most sever form we will see," Nolan said.

Commonly it is the elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions that are prone to deadly levels of West Nile infection.

So far this summer, there are 13 confirmed cases around Mississippi, compared to 8 last year.

There has also been one death in Jones County....County Supervisor Andy Dial says they are spraying for mosquitos in areas where they breed.

"And most people over the years, because of the West Nile thing, realize that you don't need no standing water, no tires with water in them. Any place that will hold standing water is a place for them to grow," Dial said.

West Nile survivor Berryhill says she has learned her lesson about mosquitoes.

"I definately will make sure I have repellant or a candle like a cirtonella candle around. Something like that," Berryhill said.

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