Mississippi health officials report first West Nile virus human case of 2014

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported on Monday the state's first laboratory-confirmed human case of West Nile virus for 2014 in Hinds County.

"From time to time, we do see cases reported this early in Mississippi," MSDH State Epidemiologist Thomas Dobbs said. "While it does seem surprising given all the winter weather we've had this season, it serves as a good reminder that WNV can occur year-round, even if we are not in the peak summer months of July, August and September."

Mississippi had 45 cases of West Nile virus in 2013, and five deaths.

"Also, the timeframe of when the first case is reported has no effect on the type of WNV activity we'll see in a particular season," Dobbs said. "There really is no way to predict how active the season will be."

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. It can be prevented by eliminating areas where mosquitoes breed and by taking protection measures outside, such as applying mosquito repellant, wearing long sleeves and avoiding mosquito-prone areas in the morning and evening when mosquitoes are most active.

Symptoms of WNV may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, muscle weakness or swollen lymph nodes. In some cases, the infection can lead to encephalitis or meningitis.